This summer Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman have teamed up once again to write and direct Tully, a film ostensibly about the trials and tribulations of motherhood. Cody and Reitman pair collaborated on the critically acclaimed coming-of-age drama Juno back in 2007, cult favourite horror-comedy Jennifer’s Body two years later, and the criminally under-watched Young Adult in 2011.
Charlize Theron, also the star of Cody and Reitman’s last feature film, excels in Tully: Marlo, a 40-something HR employee, already a mother of two and expecting her third child any day. The audience sees Marlo’s pregnant belly first, dramatically protruding from her body, boldly announcing this is a film first and foremost about motherhood. Marlo brushes her son’s body, to soothe him and bond with him, a starkly affecting display, as the opening credits scroll across the screen.
Marlo is a woman pitied by her insufferably privileged in-laws, her son’s school administration, and even her ex-girlfriend, and she patiently endures quiet indignities from those oblivious to her needs until an immensely satisfying confrontation. It’s no secret that Cody is a master at writing complex women: her characters manage to challenge preconceptions, simultaneously seductive, hilarious, and devastating. The best film characters contain contradictions not unlike actual people.
Mackenzie Davis, as the titular character, known from the “San Junipero” episode of Black Mirror, manages to steal scenes throughout Tully. At a glance, Tully is an exasperating Manic Pixie Dream Nanny, but as the story progresses her character is revealed to be far more intriguing and Davis’ performance is enchanting.
Tully is a enrapturing cinematic experience, at 96 minutes it could have lingered longer on certain characters and themes, and it may prove to be divisive amongst audiences but it’s one of the most surprising, subtly radical films of the year so far.