Review: Tully finds the comedy amid the terrors of childbirth

PUBLISHED: 17:11 15 May 2018 | UPDATED: 17:11 15 May 2018

Charlize Theron as Marlo and Ron Livingston as Drew in Tully. Photo: Focus Features

Charlize Theron as Marlo and Ron Livingston as Drew in Tully. Photo: Focus Features


Mother doesn’t know best - she is teetering on the precipice of a nervous breakdown in Jason Reitman’s beautifully crafted and bittersweet portrait of modern parenthood starring Charlize Theron.

Charlize Theron as Marlo in Tully. Photo: Focus FeaturesCharlize Theron as Marlo in Tully. Photo: Focus Features

Tully (15)


Charlize Theron’s stellar movie career is really rooted in her Oscar-winning turn in Monster, when she took some frenzied beatings with the ugly stick to convince as serial killer Aileen Wuornos.

It was a gimmicky, slightly desperate move, but I think any fair-minded observer would say she has made good use of the opportunities it has offered her. Everybody won.

Mark Duplass as Craig in Tully. Photo: Focus FeaturesMark Duplass as Craig in Tully. Photo: Focus Features

But it was an experience she has not repeated. Until now, when she has done a Raging Bull and piled on the pounds to convince as a woman who has just given birth to a third child and is distressed and depressed by the toll childbirth has had on her body.

It’s a contented life in theory, but even though she is married to Ron Livingston (an actor who effortlessly embodies reasonableness, and ineffectual decency) she is riven with dissatisfaction. Her rich and successful brother (Mark Duplass) gifts her a night nanny, a young attractive woman, Tully (Mackenzie Davis), who comes every evening to look after the baby while she gets some sleep. After some initial scepticism, she takes to her, and Tully becomes her chief friend and confidante.

The film is effectively a comedy about the terrors of childbirth. Parents will nod in acknowledgement at how truthful it is, while smug singles and long-term couples not yet blessed with offspring will look aghast at the horrors that await. It is not a film for any heterosexual male hoping to have a sex life in the next three to four months.

This is the third pairing of Jason Reitman and scriptwriter Diablo Cody, both of whom are best known for another pregnancy comedy, Juno.

Tully is a nicely put together film. The editing is really crisp and energetic, while the careful camera placements capture the isolated and pressurised reality of child-rearing.

Cody is like a lady Tarantino, a spinner of cracking dialogue based not on obscure movies but real life. What she doesn’t have though is much inspiration as to structure. Tully falls apart in its final 20 minutes.

You will probably notice the exact moment when a film that had felt so real, suddenly seems so bogus. It flips in a moment. Something that had seemed rather wonderful, ends up as a frustrating, missed opportunity.

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