Theron Shines in Tully

Director Jason Reitman’s new film demonstrates the challenges mothers face post-childbirth


Junaidro/ Creative Commons

Charlie Theron provides her award winning talents to portray the struggle.

Director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody’s “Tully” is a brutal and heartfelt portrayal of motherhood not often seen on the silver screen. The duo’s third collaborative work highlights the trials of maintaining a running household with multiple children, and though its ending seems just a bit incredible, the rest of the film does not.

Academy award winner Charlize Theron’s unmatched skill, combined with Reitman’s and Cody’s filmmaking sensibilities, propel the mostly genuine script into undoubted reality.

Theron gained 50 pounds for the leading role of Marlo, and Reitman used rougher than usual camera work to emphasize authenticity in a cluttered home setting. Cody’s disarming and thoughtful dialogue laid the groundwork for the film’s effectiveness.  

“Tully” presents the tired and untended Marlo on the precipice of having her third child and subsequent physical and emotional breakdown.

Kind but clueless husband Drew (Ron Livingston) helps with what he can, but remains unaware of his wife’s daily workload, which includes dealing with their “quirky” son Jonah. Though “quirky” gets tossed around condescendingly and to Marlo’s exceptional annoyance, evidence provided suggests her son could be autistic.

Issues at Jonah’s school, chores and dinner exhaust the waddling Marlo, and her newborn’s arrival only intensifies her stress.

Acknowledging her past struggles with postpartum depression, wealthier brother Craig (Mark Duplass) offers to pay for a night nanny – someone to watch the baby overnight so parents can sleep. Though reluctant at first, Marlo warms to the idea once she meets the inexhaustibly chipper and sensitive Tully, played engrossingly by the exceedingly intuitive Mackenzie Davis, seen most recently in “Blade Runner 2049” before this project.

The two women’s growing relationship best exemplifies Cody’s ability to encapsulate palpable emotion in just a few lines of banter. Their conversations range from reality television to philosophical matters, and they’re performed and captured in a rough and natural way that makes the viewer feel almost intrusive.

The actresses’ capacity to seem so at ease on screen can be attributed to Theron’s past work with both Reitman and Cody. All three worked together to make the 2011 scathing comedic drama “Young Adult.”

Though Mackenzie was a newcomer to the team, Reitman always imagined her for the part. “When I saw her, putting her and Charlize together in a room immediately seemed like a great idea,” said the director in a promotional interview. “It proved to be right. Their chemistry was electric.”

The film’s darker scenes displaying Marlo’s pitfalls are also powerful, perhaps because they stem from actual experience. Cody had just given birth to her third child while writing “Tully.”

“I don’t think I’d ever written anything in that super vulnerable, postpartum state before,” said the often divisive writer. “I’m glad I did because I think something interesting came out of it. I was able to put those raw feelings of fear and exhaustion into the script.”

Cody’s most successful projects materialize when she writes what she knows best – offbeat, imperfect women at pivotal moments in their lives. There’s a fluidity between “Juno,” “Young Adult” and “Tully” that captures the difficulties of womanhood and motherhood, or lack of, at various life stages.

Although some parts of the script, and especially one big one, seem out of place, “Tully” is effective in raising consciousness of the endless labor most women experience after childbirth.

Adriana Garcia can be reached at [email protected]