Tully is a very real, heavy film that, with some unique humour, creates a unique experience. We first meet the heavily pregnant mother Marlo, an almost unrecognisable Charlize Theron, as she is quite literally brushing her son’s arms and legs. It serves as an oddly amusing introduction until we learn why she does this. Tully can certainly be a rough film that occasionally lightens the tone by peppering dry, dark humour in appropriate places, though said humour may not be for everyone. Much of it comes from Marlo’s frustration with her situation and the behaviour of her husband.
The obvious themes present are pregnancy while dealing with a semi-arsehole of a husband who seems oblivious to her tireless effort, the mental toll this takes on a mother who is essentially raising a newborn child by herself while already having a problematic young child and an older eight year old girl. It is evident early on that her life isn’t easy and it almost feels as if she resents being pregnant, that she harbours a secret hatred towards her extremely problematic son, who obviously borders on the ADD/autism spectrum, though in a fresh piece of design this is never addressed in full, allowing us to fill in the gaps about his being ‘quirky’, as the school principal likes to put it.
However, the the development of his character is fractured and subsequently he never becomes more than a problem-child, almost a plot device to raise the desperation of Marlo’s situation. Despite his involvement in the first half of the film, we don’t see or hear much about hear much about him after the baby is born, if at all, his personality never quite arriving at its destination. His sister is also underdeveloped, even more so. But this doesn’t hurt the power of the film.
Once Marlo has given born, it is again amusing how ignorant her husband is, despite good intentions, as he works on his job that can’t be explained without confusion as we find out early during a dinner conversation between Marlo, her husband, her brother, and his partner. The difference between their lives is another dark, amusing part of the film.
Ron Livingston as the husband, who is always great in subtle comedic scenarios like this, certainly doesn’t fail on this front, even playing Xbox at night, complete with a headset and microphone, bringing them out as soon as Marlo turns to go to sleep. As if he is a 40-something year-old child. Such types are certainly not without prevalence in this world we live in, and it is this broad personality trait that blinds him from the struggles his wife is going through.
Finally, as the newborn comes and Marlo becomes increasingly exhausted, she succumbs to her rich brother’s suggestions of a night nanny. They are like ninjas, he explains. Each night the titular Tully arrives, just in time to give Mummy a rest for the night, and is gone before either of the couple wake up, often raising to a clean house; a rarity in her chaotic world.
Marlo and Tully gradually develop a friendship after Marlo was initially wary of Tully and her young age, while also worrying about the fact that a stranger would be bonding with her newborn daughter. Unsurprisingly, her husband barely gets to know Tully as he focuses on his job and his Xbox, oblivious to the closer and personal relationship that develops between the two, who as they become closer, start to converse about uncomfortable matters that Tully eases out of Marlo to the point where she seems comfortable and without the rage that consumed her earlier.
It may be titled Tully, but this film is about Marlo and at first her desperation, and then the relief she experiences when Tully arrives. But this is also a very real film about pregnancy and the stress, the anguish, everything that must occur when having and then raising a child. While Tully helps her with her newborn, Marlo and her experience having a child while already having two children sheds much light on the experience of childbirth during an already chaotic life. There are a few scenes that one may want to unsee, but this the reality of having a child.
An excellent film, especially for a male. A learning experience indeed.