Netflix UK film review: Tully
James R | On 01, Jan 2019
Director: Jason Reitman
Cast: Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Ron Livingston, Mark Duplass
Watch Tully online in the UK: Netflix UK / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
“I’m here to take care of you.” “I thought you were taking care of the baby.” “You pretty much are the baby.” That’s Marlo (Charlize Theron) and Tully (Mackenzie Davis) talking in Tully, Jason Reitman’s quietly insightful and surprising drama.
It follows Marlo, a put-upon mother juggling two children and a new baby with all the other duties she has to carry out. She’s tired, drained, struggling to stay patient and has the added challenge of supporting her son, Jonah, who has an undiagnosed developmental disorder, which his school would rather not have in their classroom. So when she goes to her brother’s house with her husband, Drew (Ron Livingston), he (Mark Duplass) suggests a “night nanny” to help lighten her load. He even offers to pay for it, but Marlo refuses.
Nonetheless, in walks Tully (Davis), who arrives with a smile and a seemingly endless supply of patience. She not only helps clean, but even whips up some cupcakes as well to take to school and make amends with teachers there. So what, you’re no doubt asking, is the catch?
Screenwriter Diablo Cody, who gave Theron her last fantastic role in the complex and nuanced Young Adult, has something more moving in mind than the kind of domestic horror thrills you might expect from this scenario – and the film’s ability to move away from its conventional set-up into lesser trodden waters makes Tully one of the most impressively understated films of 2018.
Not since Motherland (or There She Goes) have our screens had such a frank account of parenthood, and the demands placed upon a woman, in particular, when running a household. But Tully goes one step further to consider the strain upon one’s mental health too, in a way that’s both unexpected and stirring. Theron sinks her teeth into the material, unleashing anger and depression with a raw honesty – Reitman frames her outbursts as silenced behind barriers, contained within cars or isolated in empty car parks. Davis, meanwhile, is fantastic as the innocent Tully, delivering her lines with a twinkling optimism that could seem twee but is played with the utmost sincerity.
They couldn’t be more different, and it’s the scenes where they come together that sees Tully really spark to life. Halfway through, the pair go downtown to drink, reminisce and talk about their lives – Marlo, frustrated with where hers has gone, Tully, positive about where hers will go. There’s a wonderful duality to those perspectives, allowing Marlo to express regret (not at what is, but what might have been) and Tully to highlight the appeal and fortune of what Marlo does have. Reitman gives both performers the space to explore thoughts, feelings and issues that are so often not discussed by parents old or young, as they become defined by their newfound roles. They navigate despair as well as hope, tiredness as well as excitement.
A final act wraps things up in a way that initially seems trite, but opens up the movie’s themes further as time passes, boiling down the seemingly magical fantasy of a two-dimensional Mary Poppins-esque figure into a drama that delivers on its acerbic, spiky, intimate humour; at its heart, this is an unabashedly simple story of two female friends caring for each other, and of one woman being reminded of the importance of self-care.
Tully is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.