If you have experienced the sleepless nights of parenthood or the mental fragility that can come with it, it’s hard not to feel a connection with this story. Even if you haven’t, the powerhouse performances of Charlize Theron as exhausted mother Marlo and Mckenzie Davis as Tully, the night nanny she hires, will hook you in.
Written by Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult, United States of Tara) and directed by Jason Reitman (Up in the Air, Juno), Tully authentically captures the separation from self and the aspirations of youth when you are deep within the exhausting needs of a young family. Although not explicitly stated, it also explores what post-natal depression feels like.
Marlo is barely hanging on. Nine months pregnant, she has a husband Drew (Ron Livingston) who is preoccupied with his own world and a young son Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica) who has high needs. The house is a mess, the school is unhappy with how Jonah fits into a regular class and Marlo’s wealthy brother Craig (Mark Duplass) and his perfectly turned-out wife Elyse (Elaine Tan) seem to have no problem juggling children, gourmet dinner parties and gym workouts.
Craig offers to pay for a night nanny when the baby is born and, although at first reticent, Marlo eventually buckles and the vivacious, unconventional Tully appears at her door. Her job is to take care of the baby at night so Marlo can sleep and also, she says, to take care of Marlo. It’s not surprising that this is transformative for Marlo. She visibly brightens, regaining her sense of self and confidence in her abilities. She wakes to a clean house and a sense of order and the times she spends with Tully reconnect her with the vitality and optimism of her youth.
Davis is mesmerising whenever she is on screen and Theron forgoes Hollywood vanity and believably encapsulates the heavy, lumbering weariness of women post-childbirth. On the surface the story is a simple one but there is a subtext that becomes apparent towards the end. It’s a satisfying one, clearly spelt out for those who might have missed the signs and lending a depth to the story that seems authentic.
I was surprised at how moving I found the very last and very simple scene to be; a final clear note of hope for all who feel alone and submerged.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.