Parenthood is no easy feat. For the untold miles of celluloid showcasing the raising of a child as akin to vacationing with angels, the truth is one hell of a haul in the opposite direction. Nighttime feedings, outbursts, injuries, pouting, attitude, accidents, lack of sleep, intentional accidents; the list goes on and on. Yes, there is much reward to having children, selflessly sacrificing your needs for theirs. Unfortunately, the halls of cinematic treasures prefer to paint the picture of parenting as effortless glee and bliss rather than the harsh reality, as movies tend to function primordially as an escape from daily life. A rare exception arrives in the form of Tully.
Expecting her third child any day, Marlo (Charlize Theron) is at her wits end. Her other two children are lovely little humans, although her son Jonah is a very sensitive 6 year-old boy whose attentive needs demand much more than her daughter, but maintaining a household while 9 months pregnant is a strenuous endeavour to say the least. Then Marlo’s well-to-do brother Craig steps in and offers to be the night nanny. At first reluctant, Marlo finally agrees and we are introduced to Tully (Mackenzie Davis), a sprightly free spirit ripe with sage advice and an intrinsic adeptness at nurturing. Each night, Tully arrives to care for Marlo’s newborn baby, affording her the opportunity to recover from the impact of birth. Tully also Mrs. Doubtfire’s up the place, cleaning during the night and whipping up cupcakes for school while the family sleeps. Marlo gradually begins to become more at ease with herself, and her relationship with Tully blossoms.
Charlize Theron proves once again that there is no role she cannot play with both skill and respect. Much ado has been made about Theron packing on 50 pounds to play a ‘real mom’, and while that is a pleasant nod to her craft, it’s honestly the least compelling component of her performance. What clicks with the character of Marlo is the utter lack of gloss or Hollywood sheen. Motherhood is hard and brutal. It is not a weekly dose of nonsensical life advice encased in a 30-minute sitcom wrapper. The devotion Theron puts forth in her willingness to not only exhibit the dark side of Mom-dom, but to completely embrace and revel in it, and that is where Tully knocks it out of the park.
Tully is a beautiful film that focuses on the harsh realities of everyday life to deliver a tale rarely told in cinema: the true plight of a modern mother. Theron’s performance may be heralded as bold, or daring. It is none of those things. And therein lies the appeal. Tully is not implying it is courageous to have a glamorous Hollywood actress portray a ‘real mom’. It’s saying that true bravery is in being one.
Venue: William Loveless Hall