Charlize Theron gives a superb, utterly convincing central performance as a struggling and exhausted mother in Tully, the new film from the makers of Juno.
Mother of three Marlo (Theron), whose charges include a son with behavioural difficulties and a new-born girl, is utterly worn down through sleepless nights. This leads to her obtaining the services of a night nanny, so she can get some much needed shut-eye. Said nanny, the eponymous Tully (Mackenzie Davis), forms a strong bond with Marlo and begins to have a profound effect on the rest of family.
Writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman have crafted a very fine piece of work which doesn’t stint on depicting the brutally tough part of motherhood. For example, the montage of relentless sleepless nights will strike a chord with many. The additional challenges faced by Marlo, such as those presented by her son, are also convincingly portrayed.
Theron is brilliant, and Mackenzie Davis is also remarkable, adding a pinch of the enigmatic to her performance. It’s also worth mentioning Ron Livingston’s turn as Marlo’s husband Drew. His character isn’t a bad father or husband exactly, but his busy work life and the stress of having young children has caused him to retreat within himself, barely communicating with Marlo and disappearing into video games. His character arc, gradually realising that he needs to be more present and supportive, is gently and sensitively achieved, without once coming off as judgemental.
Despite the presence of strong language and sexual content (which I note here for those who appreciate such warnings), Tully is an empathic and very positive film that ultimately celebrates the virtues of sacrificial motherhood. It is brutally honest, sharply funny, but also deeply compassionate. I’ll admit that I did see the ending coming a mile off (partly because I have used a similar plot device in one of my own novels), but that didn’t make it any less effective.