Skip the Avengers and watch this profound film twice instead
Review by Vic Thiessen
Among the countless forgotten films lost in the hype surrounding Avengers: Infinity War (which I don’t plan to see) is this wonderful indie comedy-drama from director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody, who collaborated on Juno (2007) and Young Adult (2011). Like those two films, Tully has profound things to say about life today and does so with a subtle humor, an unusually intelligent plot, and great acting.
Tully stars Charlize Theron as Marlo, who gives birth to her third child, Mia, early in the film. The other two children were already a handful, especially with a husband like Drew (Ron Livingston), who spends most of his days at work and playing video games. When Mia, now a month or two old, becomes too much to handle, Marlo sinks into a postpartum depression and finally gives in to the advice of her brother, Craig (Mark Duplass), who has offered to pay for a night nanny.
Tully (Mackenzie Davis) arrives late one evening to take care of both Mia and Marlo. Tully is a young woman who knows exactly what Marlo and Mia (and even Drew) need, and Marlo’s life changes literally overnight. But there’s something mysterious and worrying about Tully, and soon Marlo finds herself caught up in a situation that is getting dangerously out of control.
I can’t reveal any more of the plot, except to say that a lot of things are happeningbeneath the surface. There is so much depth to this film that I can’t wait to see it again (I expect to like it even more after a second viewing). And yet, when you watch it, you are likely to think that this is a rather slow-moving, ordinary story. All I can say is that this is not the case.
Except that the content of this story is indeed ordinary, in the sense that it is a story almost every mother can relate to. I have a two-month-old grandson living in our house at the moment, and I could identify with Marlo time and again. There are countless mothers today having to bring up children alone, and I can’t imagine what a challenge that must be, but even mothers with supportive husbands and families face a lot of challenges with a new baby in the home. Tully pulls no punches in sharing that story with us, but it does so with a dry wit while exposing the lies we all feel compelled to tell.
Theron gained 50 pounds for her role. I can’t decide whether that kind of dedication to her craft is incredibly admirable or insane, but I do know that Theron’s performance is spot-on. Davis is equally excellent as Tully. The men (Livingston and Duplass) aren’t in the same league, but that’s at least partly because their characters are poorly developed.
Tully has other flaws as well. There are some credibility issues near the end, Marlo’s plight as a struggling mother could have been fleshed out much more, and its inventive plot may deliver its strongest insights only after a second viewing. But there is something magical about a screenplay that dances with its plot elements in a way that offers only hints about much of what is happening in Marlo’s family, allowing viewers to fill in the story themselves.
Tully is a funny, sad, and profound film about motherhood, friendship, and aging. On second viewing, it may become a classic. So for those who can handle the strong language, I recommend that you watch Tully not just once, but twice (as I am planning to do as soon as possible). And then talk about it with your friends.
Tully is rated R for language and some sexuality.
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