Tully, directed by Jason Reitman, is at all times an emotionally upfront film, that for me, delivered an uplifting tale through its honest portrayal of home life, and in the end was an experience that left a smile on my face. With a structurally tight script and a strong lead performance by Charlize Theron; Tully delivers a film that far exceeded my expectations. There are some elements to this film that I’m eager to talk about and explore so let’s get to that. On with the review.
We follow Marlo – played by Charlize Theron – who is about to give birth to her third child. Her husband, Drew – played by Ron Livingston – works a lot, and so much of the struggle of taking care of the kids falls to Marlo. It is a struggle that is becoming too much – especially after the birth of the third child – and so she reluctantly hires a night nurse; Tully – played by Mackenzie Davis – who soon becomes more than just a help around the house; she becomes Marlo’s emotional saviour.
Front and centre of this film is an unwaveringly brilliant performance by Charlize Theron. As an actress she very much gave over her body and soul to the performance and disappeared into Marlo. She effortlessly travels through the trials and struggles of the character – capturing the intense emotions that overwhelm any parent in her situation. And what clearly helped Theron was that she was given a character full of qualities that were worthy and deserving of exploring.
Watching Marlo navigate the bullshit of an expecting mother – where everyone has an opinion or hides what they really mean behind kinder sounding words – and it made for a character who seems ready to either explode or implode at any moment. The explosions can be quite fun to see, as she unleashes upon someone a devastating flurry of words that cut through what they are saying and get exactly what they’re not saying. It’s the kind of interactions that get a fulfilling, satisfied laugh out of you; as you watch Marlo say exactly what is needing to be said, and what I’m sure many people wish they had the guts to say.
But the moments of implosion are of course tough to see. Marlo – like any mother – is incredibly resilient. Kids can be… challenging – I know I certainly wasn’t the easiest kid for my mum to deal with. And so, watching those moments where Marlo is pushed to her limits and inevitably breaking is upsetting to see. But what makes seeing those moments worth it is that it means there is a character who is never light on having elements that are really worthy of experiencing. Marlo alone is an extremely rich character whose journey was one that I was almost immediately interested to be a part of.
And the film does an excellent job of taking those wildly varying moments of intensity (both positive and negative in tone) and balancing out what could have easily been a turbulent tonal experience. Scenes would have me laughing – for example: when Marlo’s daughter, Sarah – played by Lia Frankland – would dole out unintentionally harsh comments about various things, and because it comes from the harmless mind of a child you can’t help but laugh at how true it is. But those scenes would often be followed my emotionally full-on moments that would suck the oxygen out of the room and leave you winded. Somehow though, there was a balance that caused those shifts in emotion to never feel abrupt or jarring to the overall experience.
Playing a major part in creating that balance was a script – written by Diablo Cody – that was excellently written and structured. As I’ve mentioned, Tully got more than a few laughs out of me, and it’s thanks to the bitingly honest dialogue that Diablo Cody wrote. Breaking through the subtext of what people would say to Marlo and approaching things head on was something the film did often and was an extremely cathartic experience. We all deal with it on a daily basis; people saying things in round-about ways and never getting to the point. It is the same for Marlo’s, and so those moments where she is able to break through the nonsense and talk honestly – whether it be with the principle of the school and how she’s sick of the safe language she uses or its with Tully and how she feels the person she once was is now gone – it is all a wholly satisfying, meaningful set of moments to watch.
And interestingly the subtext within the dialogue is not exclusive to just the interactions between characters. Diablo Cody weaves breadcrumbs into his script that begin to have monumental payoffs as the film goes on. I wasn’t directly looking for them at first – I noticed some of them, but they didn’t fully register – but in those moments where they started to surface, and I began to look back on what they meant for the larger story – I was overcome with a smile. It isn’t anything crazy that writer, Diablo Cody does, but it takes what is a pretty straightforward film and elevates it just that little but more. It’s also a film that utilises its 95-minutes well; delivering a well-paced film that feels like it pays enough attention to the moments that need them, while skimming through the others that only need to be touched upon slightly.
When I look back on Tully, I see a film that surprised me and emotionally enriched me. I’m going to be honest: when I looked down the list of films currently on at the cinema, nothing jumped out at me – including Tully. But I didn’t have a review to go up when needed and so I listened to the recommendation of a friend and decided to go see Tully – not knowing much about it, thus not having any expectations for what I was about to see. I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about seeing this film but needs outweighed wants.
Well… I’m really glad that I ended up going to see this film. Tully was a genuinely surprising little film that had me completely invested and full of emotion from the beginning and throughout. Which all leads me to the point I’ve been circling for these past two paragraphs: Tully didn’t standout to me initially. The trailers didn’t interest me that much and to put it bluntly I didn’t have much desire to see it – again, thanks go to my buddy, Philip for saying that I should check it out. Because I am sincerely happy that I took the time to see Tully. Sure, it wasn’t a film that blew me away, but it was a film that delighted me; that made me care about the characters in it; and that made me think about elements in my own life. And sometimes… isn’t that all we need a film to do?
So, don’t be like me. Don’t let this film pass you by. Don’t do what I did and – as the saying goes: ‘judge a book by its cover – because you never know what you might end up missing out on. It might not be Tully, but there might be a film that’s come and gone or is about to come out that hasn’t caused a blip to occur on your radar and that could result in missing something worthwhile. I’ve been passing on too many films recently and I want to change that mindset. Tully played its part in making me want to change that mindset. Not only was it an enjoyable film, but it effected change in me beyond what it ever intended to do, and I appreciate it for that. Any… way… that was an unexpected little ramble.
I happily recommend, Tully. If you find the time, you should absolutely give Tully a watch. Who knows, it may surprise you as much as it surprised me. It may shift something in your head, like it did mine, you never know. And so, if you do end up seeing it, I hope you have as fulfilling a time with it as I did.
I’m really interested to know what you thought of Tully, and my review of it. So please, leave your opinions and feedback in the comments section down below. If you liked what you read, may I suggest following both my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings – as it will help to grow what I’m creating here. But I’ll bring things to a close now by giving my heartfelt thanks to you for taking the time to read me review. I really do appreciate it!