Motherhood is messy in “Tully,” the third collaboration between director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody (“Juno,” “Young Adult”). Charlize Theron (also of “Young Adult”) stars as Marlo, a frazzled mother of two young children and a newborn, whose wealthy brother (Mark Duplass) offers to pay for a night nanny (Mackenzie Davis).
Theron’s Marlo is a former Bushwick-dwelling hipster who married (her workaholic husband’s played by Ron Livingston), moved to the suburbs, had three kids and finds herself sleepwalking through life. Theron, sporting a flabby post-pregnancy belly, draws you into her existential ennui — but there’s always a vein of Cody’s snappy humor underneath, paired with a fierce maternal instinct. When told her son is too “quirky” to function in his current school, Marlo snaps, “Do I have a kid or a
Reitman directs with an empathy for mothering that never shies away from its darker side: One scene that sees Marlo accidentally dropping her iPhone on the baby was apparently drawn from several of his mom-friends’ anecdotes.
Enter Davis as Tully, the boundlessly enthusiastic night nurse who gently shoos Marlo off to bed as she takes the baby into her care. Suddenly, “it’s like I can see color again,” says Marlo after sleeping through the night for the first time in ages.
As Tully teaches Marlo the art of self-care, you begin to worry she’s getting entirely too attached to a person whose role is to pop in when most needed and leave after a few weeks. The film’s resolution is best left seen for yourself, but suffice to say this is a take on the realities of motherhood that dares to go where few mainstream films have gone.
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