Charlize Theron shows messy side of motherhood in ‘Tully’

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
f—ing ukulele?”

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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