Director Jason Reitman delivers a brilliant, happy-sad ode to parenthood with Tully, the story of a burnt-out mother of three (Charlize Theron) who hires a night nanny and saving grace named Tully (Mackenzie Davis). Thanks in great part to Diablo Cody’s intelligent script and Theron’s masterful performance, Tully’s heartfelt portrayal of motherhood and growing up is one of the best of the year so far.
Tully finds Charlize Theron in peak form as Marlo, the tense, sleep-deprived mother for whom nothing seems to go as planned. However, things begin to change when her brother hires her a nanny to take care of the newborn baby at night. Through conversations with the night nanny, Marlo begins a journey of self-discovery and acceptance that lead her to places she never thought she’d see again.
Without spoiling too much, I will say that Tully is not what I expected. Though not “mystical” in the common sense of the word, Marlo’s journey is not unlike a fairy tale. I plagiarize this sentiment, of course, from IndieWire writer David Ehrlich, who called Tully an “adult fairy tale” and a “fantasy of the highest order.” While certainly not a fantasy film, Tully successfully gives the audience the sense of magic within its realism. Whether canon or simply thematic, it’s that “magic” which makes Tully a unique film, one that maybe only Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody could make.
Both lead performances, from Theron and Black Mirror-alum Mackenzie Davis, are outstanding. Davis’ Tully is a funny and philosophical foil for the cut-and-dry realism of Marlo. As their friendship blooms, they begin to understand each other and it always seems as though they’re really listening to each other, which means we’re really listening to. Tully appeals to the optimist and realist in all of us. From the first moment of the film, Marlo sucks you into her life and doesn’t release you until the credits roll. Tully’s immersiveness forces you to feel what Marlo is feeling at all times, and that is a truly enchanting feat. There is a clear passion here— from Reitman, Cody, Theron, and Davis —and a passion that strong often makes for incredible cinema. ★★★★½