Raising kids is often quite a demanding task, and “Tully” honestly and incisively illuminates that undeniable fact via its sharp wit and thoughtful sensitivity. As we are frequently amused by its many humorous moments which are both funny and truthful, we become gradually immersed into its struggling heroine’s daily life, and we come to observe her reality with more understanding and empathy when her story takes an unexpected left turn during the last act.
In the beginning, the movie shows us one of the daily routines of Marlo (Charlize Theron), a married woman who has been daunted a lot by her many domestic tasks. While her 8-year-old daughter Sarah (Lia Frankland) is your average sweet girl, her 6-year-old son Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica) frequently causes troubles and headaches due to a behavioral problem which may be involved with autism spectrum, and now she has to prepare for the upcoming birth of her third kid. Her husband Drew (Ron Livingston) is aware of how much she struggles everyday, but he is frequently absent due to his busy work, and all he can do at present is providing a little support and consolation to her from time to time.
After Marlo finally gives birth to her third child, the situation becomes more burdensome and stressful than before, and there is a hurtfully hilarious sequence consisting of her repeated routines revolving around her baby. As busily taking care of her baby, she constantly suffers from stress and sleep deprivation, and, not so surprisingly, there eventually comes the breaking point when she happens to argue with Jonah’s kindergarten teacher on one day.
And that is when Marlo is reminded of what her brother Craig (Mark Duplass) previously offered to her as a gift. According to him, there is an excellent nanny who can take care of her baby instead of her at night, and he was willing to hire that nanny for his sister, but she flatly rejected it because she thought she could handle the situation for herself. Fortunately, he gave her a calling card at that time, so Marlo soon comes to contact with that nanny, who instantly comes to Marlo’s suburban house.
She is a young woman named Tully (Mackenzie Davis), and Marlo comes to like her a lot as seeing how deftly she does her job in spite of being rather odd and quirky. While quite knowledgeable about many different things, Tully sincerely handles Marlo’s baby with lots of care and attention, and Marlo soon begins to enjoy the result from hiring Tully. For instance, she comes to have a good rest which she has always yearned for, and things surely look better than before after she has several hours of uninterrupted sleep.
In addition to taking care of Marlo’s baby, Tully also handles a number of other domestic matters. Besides cleaning Marlo’s house, she makes a bunch of cupcakes for Jonah and other kids in his kindergarten, and there is an amusing scene where she and Marlo come to do something special (and kinky) for Drew, who is understandably surprised at first but is quite satisfied as shown from the following morning scene.
As Tully becomes more indispensable for her, Marlo talks more with her, and their private conversations usually revolve around themselves. As watching how confident Tully is, Marlo cannot help but be reminded of how she was before her married life, and Tully later suggests that they should go together to a Brooklyn neighborhood area where Marlo once lived along with her former best friend.
It is around that narrative point that Diablo Cody’s screenplay suddenly throws a moment of revelation at us. Some of you may not like this abrupt change, but I think it works on the whole because of what has been carefully and thoughtfully established under the skillful direction of director Jason Reitman, who previously collaborated with Cody in “Juno” (2007) and “Young Adult” (2011). While it is less idiosyncratic than “Juno” in comparison, Cody’s screenplay is balanced well between comedy and drama as occasionally wielding a snarky sense of humor, and she and Reitman did a commendable job of making genuine emotional moments to touch us in the end.
And the movie is anchored well by two excellent performances. Charlize Theron, who was utterly fearless as the incorrigibly unlikable heroine of “Young Adult”, thoroughly embodies her character right from her first scene, and the result is another good work from this very talented actress who has steadily advanced since her unforgettable Oscar-winning turn “Monster” (2003). Mackenzie Davis, who played a minor supporting character in “Blade Runner 2049” (2018), is equally fine as effortlessly exuding her natural charm, and she and Theron always generate engaging moments to watch whenever they are together on the screen. In case of other performers in the film, Asher Miles Fallica and Lia Frankland are as unadorned as we can expect from good young performers, and Ron Livingston and Mark Duplass are also solid in their respective supporting roles.
Overall, “Tully” is a funny, touching movie about motherhood, and Reitman, Cody, and their two lead performers deserve to be praised for their considerable achievement here in this film. Sure, the movie feels a bit too offbeat at times, but it handles its story and characters with sincerity and intelligence, and it certainly earns its ending in my inconsequential opinion.