“Tully” Spoiler: Mom Not Just Stressed Out

In our society, there’s something almost transgressive in speaking up and admitting that motherhood is hard and occasionally unrewarding when everyone is quick to point out what a “blessing” it is. Chris Nashawaty,  ew.com, reviewing Tully

Tully, directed by Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody, is that film that strives to be more honest about a role many women cherish, on the one hand, while sometimes silently resenting. Mom Marlo (Charlize Theron) is expecting her third child.

John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter, summarizes the plot:

Marlo and husband Drew (Ron Livingston) already had their hands full. Their daughter is on the cusp of an awkward phase, and their son is ‘quirky’ — a demanding special needs kid whose special needs have yet to be labeled. Marlo’s brother (Mark Duplass), who has made money and is busy living a luxury-product life with his too-perfect wife (Elaine Tan), wants to give them the kind of baby present that says ‘you aren’t up to this’: He offers to hire a ‘night nanny,’ who’ll keep watch over the infant while parents get some rest, only waking Mommy when it’s time to breast-feed.

Drew and Marlo reject the offer, but when Marlo nearly goes postal at her son’s school, she reconsiders. Enter Tully [Mackenzie Davis]…


So, who is Tully (Mackenzie Davis)? What we think throughout most of the movie: She’s the night nanny hired by Marlo after the birth of her and her husband’s third child. What we find out: Tully isn’t real, she’s a projection of Marlo’s younger self—maiden name Tully.

Tully, that is, appears to be the result of postpartum psychosis.

As it’s known that Marlo has had a second-child postpartum depression, the implication is that her untreated depression has deepened and worsened into a delusional state.

Alonso Duralde, The Wrap: “Where ‘Tully’ goes…will be a matter of taste, and while I question some of [writer Diablo] Cody’s third-act ideas, I applaud her and Theron for pulling no punches about the agony of parenting; the act of tending to an infant is handled with some of the grimmest humor this side of ‘Eraserhead.’…Theron gives us a brutally realistic portrait of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown.”

Female critic Inkoo Kang, Slate, who rewatched Tully:

…The second time, I was convinced of the film’s brilliance. Knowing the revelation to come, I found the jokes funnier, the details smarter, the foreshadowing more harrowing, and Theron more impressive—simply the way she holds her head, and how her gaze shifts to reflect Marlo’s moods and wavering sense of control. Under a sloppy haircut, she’s achingly hysterical when Marlo turns her spikiness outward and heartbreakingly frustrated when overwhelmed by the demands of her children. You can see in Theron’s overly caffeinated eyes and slumped back the layers of loneliness and self-loathing that finally burst through, demanding change. Their truth, if taken seriously, could reorganize millions of lives.

Controversy has ensued over the plot twist, as some moms would’ve preferred the ability to know the gist of Marlo’s mental health issues in advance. Their decision whether or not to see it, based on how triggering or upsetting it may feel, could’ve been helped by spoiler-like publicized info (that, as in this case, is normally withheld).

“The resulting controversy may do what the film does not: Educate the public about maternal mental health,” concludes Heather Marcoux, Motherly.

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