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Tully (Charlize Theron) - Review


Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THE third collaboration between director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody is another gem.

Tully is a continually engrossing examination of parenting in the modern era. But while certainly warm hearted and continually amusing, it’s also a film that dares to lift the lid on raising a family as it is: a struggle, albeit a wonderfully rewarding one.

Charlize Theron heads the cast as long-suffering mother of three Marlo, who has only recently given birth to her third child.

Yet while outwardly telling everyone that her newborn child is “such a blessing”, Marlo is struggling to cope. Her husband Drew (Ron Livingston) is often away at work, and her eldest son, Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica), is a special needs child in need of a diagnosis, who is running out of options at his school.

When Marlo’s wealthy brother Craig (Mark Duplass) offers help in the form of a night nanny, she is initially reluctant to accept. But after one particularly challenging day, Marlo succumbs to temptation and makes the call that will change her family’s lives.

Tully (Mackenzie Davis) is a modern day Mary Poppins. A seemingly magical figure who enters at night and looks after the baby, waking Marlo up only to nurse. What’s more, she cleans and bakes and does all of the things that Marlo’s family never get the opportunity [or time] to do for themselves. And, in spite of her quirks and sensibilities, she quickly bonds with Marlo and the two become friends. But how long can the fairytale last?

As they have previously shown with both Juno and Young Adult (which also featured Theron in the lead role), Reitman and Cody have a tremendous ability to deliver a set of characters who are as fallible as they are relatable.

Marlo, in particular, is a hugely endearing presence: the sort of unsung hero who occupies everyday life, who suffers in silence and does the best that she can, while secretly hoping for the kind of ‘hail Mary’ pass that her affluent brother eventually supplies.

Theron excels. She looks exhausted and authentically world-weary. This is a performance a million miles removed from the kick-ass heroine of Fast & Furious 8 or Mad Max: Fury Road, or even the acid-tongued protagonist of Young Adult. It feels lived-in, thereby enabling us to celebrate the victories, while understanding the breakdowns or occasional lapses of judgement.

But Davis is superb too, her too good to be true nanny a mix of frustrating optimism and naïve condescension. The scenes between her and Theron are highly engaging and superbly played.

The supporting players make their mark, too, whether in the form of Fallica’s achingly sympathetic Jonah, Livingston’s amiable if unhelpful husband or Duplass’ sympathetic brother.

Cody’s ear for cracking dialogue remains intact, too, affording her characters plenty to work with, while making salient points about the challenges and expectations of contemporary parenting, as well as the differences between the privileged elite who can afford a night nanny and day care, and those who must struggle through by themselves.

But her screenplay is also capable of delivering the odd curve-ball, too, building to a conclusion that’s, by turns, surprising, brutally honest and – ultimately – poignant yet optimistic.

Reitman, for his part, keeps the pace brisk and the various scenes alive with varying emotions, tapping into both the madness of family life and the joy it can so often equally bring. Tully is therefore a film that really shouldn’t be missed.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 96mins
UK Release Date: May 4, 2018