Diablo Cody, Jason Reitman and Charlize Theron reunite in Tully, an unflinching and singular look at modern motherhood. For all its pedigree, Tully is not a film I expected to surprise me, but that it did. That Charlize Theron is incredible and Mackenzie Davis spellbinding was not the surprise, but it was nice to be right about somethings. Nor was it a surprise that screenwriter Diablo Cody drew inspiration from her own life experiences when creating this story. Cody’s best work has always been deeply human and possessed of humanity. Tully is no exception, but it might well be the most fearless effort she’s yet delivered. Cody is no stranger to defying convention, and the ultimate path of Tully may well ruffle a few feathers. It certainly raises some questions, but when the dust settles, it’s clear that this is sneakily brilliant storytelling.
We follow Marlo (Theron), a middle-aged mom to two — soon to be three — who is beset by all the joys and slings and arrows of mom life. When her wealthy brother decides to gift her a night nanny to celebrate the birth of her third, she balks. But eventually, she concedes. Enter Tully (Mackenzie Davis), an exuberant youth who spouts facts on every topic under the sun and gazes out at the world with such love in her eyes that even the dark and drafty movie theater feels a little warmer. (As an aside, can we give Mackenzie all the roles yet? She’s been too wonderful for too long already). These two women, worlds apart in their day-to-day lives, bond quickly and fiercely, kindred spirits who see a counterpoint in one another. The chemistry between Theron and Davis is intoxicating. The fact that Tully takes a very light hand where plot is almost imperceptible next to all of the extraordinary character work. It would be quite enough just to sit and watch these interactions, then the movie takes a hard turn and everything changes, even as nothing really does.
I left Tully completely spellbound. The sense was one of mingled astonishment at the thoughtfulness and grace with which this picture tackles some very sensitive subjects and overwhelmingly that however tough I ever thought parenthood was, it’s at least doubly so. Days and days later, I am still amazed that even as this story zooms into the two women at its center, it expands and unfolds into something so much greater. How Tully hits audiences will be fascinating to watch, in the immediate aftermath and in the years to come. The one certainty is that Tully will leave us much to consider long after the screen fades to black and the next picture cycles into the theater.