Tully (2018)

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Critic Consensus: Tully delves into the modern parenthood experience with an admirably deft blend of humor and raw honesty, brought to life by an outstanding performance by Charlize Theron.

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A new comedy from Academy Award (R)-nominated director Jason Reitman ("Up in the Air") and Academy Award (R)-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody ("Juno"). Marlo (Academy Award (R) winner Charlize Theron), a mother of three including a newborn, is gifted a night nanny by her brother (Mark Duplass). Hesitant to the extravagance at first, Marlo comes to form a unique bond with the thoughtful, surprising, and sometimes challenging young nanny named Tully (Mackenzie Davis).

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Critic Reviews for Tully

All Critics (243) | Top Critics (41)

As a portrayal of postpartum depression, Tully is a success-simplistic at times, but an admirable gut-punch nonetheless.

May 21, 2018 | Full Review…

The emotions Tully surfaces aren't comforting, and they have less to do with the actual realities of motherhood than with the idea of motherhood as something that leaves you forever changed and cut off from your younger self.

May 10, 2018 | Full Review…

For those with an appetite for an early-summer movie with heart, but no costumes, "Tully" will take care of them, too.

May 8, 2018 | Full Review…
CNN.com
Top Critic

Tully fails on every level except one: Charlize Theron wakes it from its lethargy, takes it by the jugular, and squeezes until it yells.

May 7, 2018 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
Observer
Top Critic

Tully is a walking film script, and the best thing that can be said about the film is that a group of very talented actors works very hard to make its contrivances pass as plausible.

May 7, 2018 | Full Review…

In "Tully," the cynicism about the supposed undiluted joys of motherhood rings true, or at least truer than in movies that don't admit such a station in life can be less than paradise.

May 4, 2018 | Rating: 4.5/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Tully

½

Tully makes it obvious that it isn't trying to sugarcoat the realities of motherhood. In fact, the film is so realistic, mothers might feel it hits too close to home. It's admirable, however, and terrific director Jason Reitman, who delivered the superior and more balanced films Juno and Up in the Air, delivers this intimate but very straight-minded drama with a muted sensibility. Mackenzie Davis and Charlize Theron shine, however, the film unravels a bit when it throws in a rather underdeveloped twist that takes a turn for the bitter. It ends the film in a rather sour note, and upon further thought reflects the themes of the film rather messily. Still, Tully will mean a lot to mothers and to those who ever have underestimated the difficulty of being one. Rating: 72

Bradley J
Bradley J

Super Reviewer

½

Here is a decent film that seems to be in desperate search of a conflict (any conflict, at each and every turn) to justify its existence, so much that it simply comes up with an implicit twist in the end to sound profound - a twist that actually does work despite, well, being a cliché.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

Tully is a Young Adult reunion, bringing back writer Diablo Cody (Juno), director Jason Reitman (Up in the Air), and star Charlize Theron (Atomic Blonde), and for people without kids, it can feel more like a horror movie. Numerous movies have conveyed the challenges of parenthood, the put upon moms and dads struggling to juggle schedules and lunches and homework, all without much time to themselves for self-care. Usually these movies will begin by displaying the hardships of parenthood but ultimately put a cheery bow on things by the end and conclude, "Yeah, but it's all worth it, in the end." Tully doesn't provide that easy bow and I appreciated that. Motherhood can be a real bitch. Marlo (Theron) is a 40-year-old mother who feels overwhelmed with life. She's about to have baby number three and her "atypical" youngest son requires a lot of intensive supports and is upsetting his school. Her husband, Drew (Ron Livingston), is away for work often and late at night he plays online games and keeps to his side of the bed. Marlo's rich brother (Mark Duplass) takes it upon himself to hire a "night nanny," a person who watches the newborn baby during nighttime hours and allows the mother to get some restful sleep. Marlo is adamant about not letting a stranger watch over her child, but soon relents and calls for the nanny. Enter Tully (Mackenzie Davis), a mid-twenties godsend who is wise beyond her years, competent, and nonjudgmental. With Tully's assistance, Marlo is able to make steps toward becoming the person she remembers. Through its depiction, it feels like parenthood has a lot in common with incarceration. It feels like a new parent goes away for a multi-year sentence, loses all sense of sleep, is indentured into work often without any compensation, and required at a moment's notice at all hours. Marlo's life is certainly unglamorous but it's also taking its toll. The needs of her children, including one with undiagnosed special needs, are snuffing out her sense of self and taking an unremitting physical and mental toll. The opening of the film has Marlo days away from her third pregnancy and she looks like she's smuggling a beach ball. Her brother's wife cheerfully adds, "You look glowing," that age-old pregnancy praise, and Marlo's unfazed reaction is more of a, "Really?" She then proceeds to compare herself to the trash barge that floated along the East Coast in the 1980s, a perfectly plucked pop-culture allusion from Cody. At no point do you doubt the love Marlo has for her family, but the servitude is driving her crazy and with no relief in sight with baby number three. There's a pristine montage of her daily routine of feeding, pumping, changing diapers, and absent sleep, the days just melt into one another, and it's so horrifying in its mind-numbing execution that it reminded me genuinely of Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream montages of drug-abuse and despair. It's a third of the way into the film when Tully enters the picture and serves as the long-needed change agent for Marlo. She's the miracle worker nanny that works at night like a whimsical little elf, and the next morning the house is clean, the baby is taken care of, and Marlo has been allowed a rejuvenating night of sleep. You can chart the change in the quality time with the family, where quickie microwave pizza dinners become more advanced home-cooked meals with multiple ingredients and food groups. You can also chart the change through the magnificent performance of Theron, who appears to be regaining her sense of self and placement in the family. Tully serves as a refreshing, therapeutic conversationalist, able to get Marlo to introspectively reflect upon her life's goals and setbacks and her sense of what she should be as a woman and not just as a mother. Tully is wise but also winsomely hopeful and optimistic; she recharges the battery for this family and Marlo in particular. These gentle, observational conversations are the best part of the film and Theron and Davis are wonderful together. Each woman seems to be learning from the other and providing a support system. Cody's early screenwriting was dinged for its obsession to be quippy and hip, but it has matured and depended over the years. Young Adult was an incisive character study in kamikaze narcissism, and it was as cold as Tully is warm, even-handed, and honest. Having a talent as surefire as Theron is a great asset, but it's Cody's storytelling that gives the movie its sting and its sweetness. This is something of a comfy thematic middle ground between the ironic, quippy yet sentimental Juno and the dark spiral of stunted growth in Young Adult (seriously, rent that movie again if you can, it's vastly underrated). Tully is a movie that is lifted on wry observations and honest dialogue. It feels very real, so much so that I was convinced the reality show-within-a-show Gigolos (Marlo is a bashful fan) was the real deal for most of the movie. I also loved the drive into Brooklyn being relegated to jump cuts, each new jump playing a different Cyndi Lauper track on an album, which feels very bibliographical and authentic. The details of Cody's story feel sharply developed and authentic, and that's the biggest draw of this movie. It's an unvarnished look into the realities of motherhood and each little detail helps further contribute to the larger portrait of Marlo's exhausted life. The supporting characters do get a bit of short shrift here, kept as one-dimensional peripheral portrayals. I was expecting more from her husband Drew since their relationship and the platonic valley they've found themselves stuck in is another significant aspect. However, the movie is really about the relationship of Marlo and Tully and how they build up one another. Marlo even sees herself in the younger nanny, and she's also wistful of a time that her body more closely resembled that of Tully's flat tummy and compact derriere. Theron continues to establish with role after role what a phenomenal acting chameleon she can be. I know we gush about Cate Blanchett, Amy Adams, and Kate Winslet as the finest actresses of their generation, and I feel like Theron deserves to be in that same hallowed Pantheon. She gave one of the best performances I've ever seen in 2003's Monster and I think she was deserving of nominations for work as varied as a one-armed post-apocalyptic feminist warrior. Theron gained fifty pounds for this beleaguered role, which is an impressive commitment, but she doesn't just let the weight gain serve as the focal point of her performance. She uses every exhausted muscle to communicate Marlo's plight. When she's slumped over in a chair and just rips her off stained shirt, you feel her utter defeat and desperation ("Mom, what's wrong with your body?" one child asks). This is a woman who is tired to the bone. She's taking everything life gives her and soldiering onward, afraid to speak up. This is best voiced when she describes her relentless day and staring into a closet and thinking, "Didn't I just do this?" Theron's renewed vitality as mother, wife, and most importantly, person, is a rewarding development to tag along with. Theron's breadth of tenderness, sadness, and hard-won insight is easily relatable and emotionally engaging. The one thing that holds me back from fully embracing Tully is a late story decision that I'm still wrestling over. It feels a bit like tonal whiplash and I immediately felt like it was completely unnecessary and that I was happy with the movie already being told. It left me jarred although I admit this decision helped provide better context for some unexpected turns in the middle between characters. Having deliberated for a couple of days, I can see how this decision plays into a larger sense of theme and character, while also tapping into something primal about motherhood and the emergency lifelines needed and provided. I'm warming to Cody's decision and can see the rationale behind it. Still, there will be plenty of audience members that will be left questioning the thought process here. Tully is the third collaboration between Cody and Reitman and they bring out the best in one another. After two duds in a row, I was worried that Reitman had become all too mortal after his 2006-2011 run of amazing films. It's reassuring to find Reitman back in finer form and to also experience the maturing growth of Cody's exceptional writing. I wish there was more with the supporting characters but this is a character study of our main momma. The late plot turn will divide audiences (I've already identified with both sides) but it serves the film's larger focus on the well-being and recuperation of Marlo. Tully is a funny, compassionate, and unflinching movie about the perils of motherhood and the steps we all need to take to activate a little necessary self-care. Nate's Grade: B+

Nate Zoebl
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

½

Although he has had a few missteps in my personal opinion, director Jason Reitman has always had a soft spot in my heart, at least in terms of how much I love his movies. Say what you will about how Juno holds up nowadays, but I still find that to be a fantastic picture, as well as thinking that Up in the Air may be one of my favourite films, period. His most recent outing in Tully has finally hit the big screen and I can pleasantly say that he has another great on his hands. This is a film that markets itself as a movie about a mother who struggles to deal with her children, and while that's definitely the setup, there's so much more under the surface. Here's why I believe Tully is worth checking out. Following Marlo, as she has already had a difficult life dealing with two children that aren't exactly perfect, she is now burdened with having a newborn as well. With her kids not really seeing life properly and her newborn reminding her of the times that she thought were behind her, she hires a night nanny to take care of her baby as she sleeps. This sparks into them having a nice relationship and some pretty incredible interactions come about. This is a very dialogue-heavy movie, but it's not riddled with too much backstory or exposition. These are two characters that you will more than likely grow to love throughout the movie and their arcs are more than paid off. Charlize Theron has always been a standout performer and her role as Marlo is absolutely no exception to that notion. The way she devotes herself to being this mother and making you believe she might have gone through scenarios throughout her real life was nothing short of inspired acting. That being said, Mackenzie Davis has been known for her work on many indie films and breaking out in last year's Blade Runner 2049. Their chemistry was magnetic and since their scenes together take up more than half of this movie, I was glued to the screen from beginning to end. Each character was given the perfect amount of exploration to make you feel a certain way about them. For myself, it all comes down to the writing and direction of a film like this. Yes, scores, editing, and cinematography (as well as many others) all play an important role in every film, but a film about raw human emotion truly comes down to the dialogue and performances. If you can't buy into what these characters are saying to each other or where they are at the beginning of the film in comparison to its conclusion (emotionally), then the movie will have lost my complete attention immediately. This is the type of film that knew how to perfectly cast its characters and flesh out a story that feels earned by the final few scenes. Tully is a film that is full of surprises throughout its third act. Whether it's a specific character decision or a literal shocking moment, this is a film that doesn't shy away from the harsh reality of real life. Theron and Davis are both incredible here and appearances by Mark Duplass and Ron Livingston can't ever hurt your film either. I can see where some viewers may be turned off completely during a specific moment in the final act, but if you are able to immerse yourself in the scene itself and looking back on the entire movie, I promise that the payoff will feel earned. Tully is riddled with impressive aspects and I can't talk highly enough about it. I have my issues here and there, but it's more than worth your time. Fantastic movie.

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

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