Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, September 25, 2018

'Tully' is a point blank exploration of the blessings and trials of motherhood

Charlize Theron as Marlo in "Tully."

Motherhood has always been an integral plot element in storytelling. Fantine (Anne Hathaway) is a woman who has to resort to extreme measures to feed her daughter in  “Les Misérables,” and Ellen Page plays a girl who has to reckon with how her life will be different after her teen pregnancy in “Juno.” But often overlooked is the simplicity of the relationship between a mother and her family and how it is in itself is a compelling story story.

This is the route taken by “Juno” writer Diablo Cody with Marlo (Charlize Theron) in “Tully,” where a woman comes to terms with the sacrifices that must be made when becoming a mother.

It is revealed early on that Marlo is taking maternity leave as a result of her upcoming due date for her third child. The viewer never sees her in a professional setting, reinforcing the idea that she is burned-out, with the sole responsibility of caring for her children, the oldest of which has an unnamed developmental abnormality.

Marlo does little to mask her frustrations, but manages to contain her outbursts in front of her children. It seems that her life is already in a state of disarray; her two young children and seemingly disinterested husband Drew (Ron Livingston) seldom help, leaving the weight of the entire household on her shoulders. She reluctantly agrees to hire a night nanny to take care of the newborn baby to help delegate some of the stress and get some much-needed sleep.

As Marlo and the quirky nanny Tully (Mackenzie Davis) get more comfortable with one another, Marlo begins to realize just how much of a reflection of her past self Tully is. This somber self-reflection is paired with a newfound sense of freedom as Tully brings a breath of fresh air into a stagnant, mundane household. As Tully and Marlo’s relationship builds, Marlo begins to see a fuller picture of her life outside of her home-life bubble.

What the film has to say about self-sacrifice is certainly nothing groundbreaking, but it is just as impactful as it explores maternal bonds. It acts as a love letter to “good moms” across the world, and places into the spotlight the pieces of themselves they must give up in order to raise a child.

The status of Marlo and Drew’s relationship is difficult to pinpoint throughout the film. She seems frustrated at his inability to be anything but a static presence in her life, but they share a number of fun quips and heartwarming interactions with their children to help balance out these difficult moments. It could be argued that this is to show how turbulent a normal relationship can be, although it often seems to be leading somewhere but never really pays off.

At the end of the day, Drew and the three children are tertiary characters to Marlow and Tully. Their interactions range anywhere from the shockingly blunt to the playfully erotic -- something that may sound like a spoiler but will make sense in the context of the film.

One of the more difficult things to explain in the film is how quickly Marlo seems to trust Tully to take full care of her newborn child. There are a couple other moments in the film where Marlo’s choices of parenting raise some eyebrows, but from a narrative perspective it makes sense as she is a woman at the end of her rope -- or rather her umbilical cord.

Theron delivers the traits and mannerisms of an exhausted, determined mother with extraordinary nuance, and given that she herself is a mother, this role may not have come as too much of a challenge despite putting on 50 pounds for the part. “Tully” successfully examines a story that is often overlooked: that of the average mother, thankless but nonetheless deserving of all the praise in the world.

Grade: A-

“Tully” was released in theaters May 4, 2018

bermer@theeagleonline.com


Comments powered by Disqus