Baby Blues

Main Cast: Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis

Director: Jason Reitman

Ah, motherhood. Unconditional love, warm snuggles, bedtime stories, cupcakes for bake sales. So perfect.  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Anyone who has been or raised a child knows that’s a lie. Sure, there are some of all those things, for most people. But there’s also mind numbing fatigue, exhaustion, and sleep deprivation that turn strong women into incredibly tired strong women. Throw a little post-partum depression in there and you have a potent mix of abject misery.

Most movies don’t want to touch that part of parenthood. It isn’t very funny, it isn’t very inspirational, and it isn’t very pretty. But writer Diablo Cody loves uncomfortable topics and she hits a home run with Tully.

Charlize Theron plays Marlo, who is about to give birth, in her mid-40s, to a third baby. Her older kids are both in school, her husband Drew (Ron Livingston) is loving but not particularly observant, and Marlo is already exhausted before the baby even arrives. Her brother (Mark Duplass, the current reigning world champion of playing douchebag roles) is a jerk in a lot of ways, but he sees that Margo is already struggling and gifts her with a night nanny for after the baby is born. He has lots of money, and Margo and Drew find the notion pretentious and have no intention of using the gift.

But after trying her hardest to parent her older kids (one of whom has his own struggles that require a lot of mom energy) and do night duty with the new baby, she finally calls. And Tully appears. And it’s magical. Margo can sleep! The movie shows, up close, how draining it is to be a new parent. Marlo and Tully form a deep relationship and discuss all of the things that get hard with age, and newborns, and husbands.  The movie is about motherhood, and friendship, and a lot of things.

Honestly, I loved Tully. It brought back so many memories of sleepless nights and love so strong that it’s physically painful, even while it’s draining you dry. Charlize Theron isn’t afraid to look haggard, and she absolutely owns the part of a new mom who should be an old hand at this baby thing but just…isn’t. She’s so relatable in so many ways, and she’s wonderfully vulnerable in her portrayal of this not always sympathetic character. Mackenzie Davis, who plays Tully, is also pretty wonderful. Her youthful optimism, confidence, and energy are a fantastic contrast to Marlo at her lowest. The two actors have marvelous chemistry.

The more peripheral roles are filled with so, so much talent. Especially Ron Livingston and Mark Duplass. Livingston is infuriating as the clueless, checked out Drew who really does love his wife and family, but isn’t quite connecting the way he needs to be. Duplass is his usual awesome self when playing a smarmy a-hole, but there’s a side to his character that is really caring. He worries about his sister; he loves her and wants her to be okay. Elaine Tan plays his wife and she’s hilarious. The older kids (played by Asher Miles Fallica and Lia Frankland) don’t have too much to do, but they make an impact by being able to draw out the good and bad in both parents.

It’s been a long time since I saw a movie about motherhood that touched me as much as Tully. That wonderful, overwhelming, terrifying feeling of caring for a newborn baby – be it the first or the third or the tenth – doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it deserves. Tully, and Charlize Theron in particular, hits so many true notes that it feels deeply personal, yet somehow universal. It’s a little gem that didn’t get a lot of marketing, but delivers so often and so sweetly that I cried more than once and laughed a lot at how real it all felt. Highly recommended.

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