‘Tully’: Charlize Theron Portrays A Struggling Mother We’ve Never Seen Before


By Tracy Wang

‘Tully’ can be said to be a true gem of the entire movie industry, as it ventures into a rarely discussed or even truthfully-shown aspect of motherhood. If anyone tries to answer how a mother is like in a Hollywood film, he or she will probably say a mother who can take on everything; however, as much as we want every motherhood to be this glorious and smooth, ‘Tully’ hits far more facts and aspects of motherhood than many others added together.

A mother of two, and soon to give birth to a third one, Marlo (Charlize Theron) is far from ready to have a third child coming into the family. Once a free spirit living in New York City, Marlo has since married and become a suburb mom whose life is solely around her kids.

Just a few days away from the birth of her third child, her awfully rich brother suggests her to get a night nanny who can make sure the couple has a good night sleep. Though she initially dismisses that idea, the birth of Mia proves to be too much for the household and for the wellbeing of Marlo. Her days become a cycle of changing diaper, picking kids up after school, and breast-feeding Mia, and she finally gives in to hire a nanny. Thus, Tully (Mackenzie Davis), a twenty-year-old attractive young woman, comes into their life.

Soon, with Tully’s help, Marlo slowly gets her life back, and starts to find her lost self. Their relationship builds quickly, and Tully soon becomes her only friend who understands her. But just when Marlo is finally able to stand on her foot, Tully tells her she is leaving. Why is she leaving all of a sudden? What will Marlo do without her help?

‘Tully’, at first glance just another movie that deals with the topic of motherhood, is in truth much more complex on this topic than just about any other films on motherhood out there. Director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody teams up again, and works magic on creating a comedy-drama film that is both witty and complex, and the end result is a piece of life that everyone needs to watch and experience.

Often in Hollywood films, we meet mom characters who are flawless and take up motherhood as if it is really a piece of cake, but what ‘Tully’ has achieved is to give us something much more truthful and real.

No more magically taking care of the household and the kids, Marlo is someone who struggles on the constant journey of motherhood. We do not get a super hot mom who is never tired, or a mom who simply glows with motherhood. Instead, we find a mom who is always exhausted, always judged, and always trying to get past every day with her willpower.

The film takes on the pace of a tired mother who sees only gray sky and who is dragging her exhausted body around day by day. As we watch her, we too begin to be tired and irritated by all the chores that come with motherhood, and when her son who no doctor can decide on his special needs starts to kick the back of his mom’s car seat, we cannot help but feel powerless, helpless, and even frustrated along with Marlo.
But ‘Tully’ is even more than truthful portrayals of the up and downs of motherhood. With the character of Tully, and with a husband who can only take care of so much things for her, the film becomes a multilayer one in which we see all the societal factors that cause motherhood to be as exhausting as the one in the film.

Drew (Ron Livingston), Marlo’s husband who is mostly good at playing video games, and kissing Mia’s forehead, demonstrates a perfect image of a father figure who is often emotionally or physically-absent, and his absence helps build a household that is off balance, but the highlight rests on the character of Tully, who reminds us of Marlo when she was younger and freer.

A young woman who seems to be able to accomplish anything and who seems to have everything under control, Tully is almost a direct opposite image of Marlo who has lost her self somewhere on this journey of motherhood. Her presence loudly reminds us of who Marlo used to be or who she could still be with the right circumstance.

‘Tully’, a significant film on motherhood, knocks us right out of our seats with its deeply-humane portrayal of a mother who struggles being a mother and being herself at the same time, and asks us to question our stereotypical view of how a mother should look like, behave or live.