Tully is a love letter to everything mothers sacrifice. And not in the stereotypical movie way of the harried cliche. It’s not good or bad. It’s just the reality of prioritizing children, no judgments.
Marlo (Charlize Theron) has her third child and her brother Craig (Mark Duplass) pays for a night nanny as his baby gift. Reluctant to take him up on it at first, Marlo soon caves and Tully (Mackenzie Davis) gives her the nights off, waking her occasionally for breastfeeding.
Writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman do a great job capturing the minute by minute obligations Marlo has. A night montage is particularly effective at showing the repetitive demands without making a big show out of LOOK AT EVERYTHING SHE’S DOING.
Marlo’s not asking for special praise or attention. She’s putting in the work and wearing herself down as it does.
Marlo and her husband Drew (Ron Livingston) also have a special needs child, Jonah, with an unspecified need for routine and tendency to meltdown in public. Yet he’s not the focus of the movie.
Jonah is just one of the many things with which this family deals. Not every issue gets to be the subject of a whole movie. Most are just subplots in the multitude of our lives.
The gift of sleep and time makes Marlo able to handle some of the routine stresses. It’s not good that Jonah’s school is hassling her, but it’s no longer the end of the world.
The circle of life is actually a tad more complex than The Lion King suggests (stay with me on this). Throughout life we have people who’ve lived more telling us we’ll understand when we’re older, as if there’s no way we could possibly understand earlier.
Then we discover just how complicated things are. Our first relationships show us all that goes into maintaing harmony between two people. Marriage shows us that keeping a home is even more complicated than just being exclusive.
The biggest step is having kids. A lot of parents claim they do understand everything they used to disagree with their own parents about. Others say for the first time in their lives, they had to learn that they weren’t the priority anymore because this new child depended on them.
Is it truly impossible to convey these things to someone who hasn’t experienced them? Possibly. Even a list of every minute thing you are responsible for as a parent may not convey how much time and focus it takes up, leaving little for personal needs.
I believe it is possible to comprehend things you have not yourself experienced. It’s called empathy. So those people who suddenly realize other people have needs too could have learned that at any point in their life.
Everyone has different learning styles, and not everyone can articulate the complexities of their experiences. That’s why they feel it’s easier to just wait until their kids are older. It’s easier to just let the experience happen than try to explain it.
Movies are one way we can relate to situations we may never encounter, let alone universal ones like motherhood. A movie like Tully conveys some of these complexities in an entertaining format where you can enjoy Marlo and Tully’s banter. And if you’ve already been there, Tully can make you feel like, “Yes, somebody does understand!”
Tully is now playing in theaters.