Tully (2018) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Tully (2018) Directed by Jason Retiman. With Charlize Theron, Ron Livingston and Mackenzie Davis.

The writer-directing team of Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman return with Tully, a small indie release starring Charlize Theron as a 40-something mother on the brink of a nervous breakdown.

The film shares natural kinship with Reitman’s Young Adult, not just in Theron’s warts n’ all central performance (does anyone do diamond in the rough better?), but in the general DNA of telling a story from the viewpoint of a woman struggling to live everyday in the vast spin-cycle of modern American nowheresville.

There are days when feel like you lose, but where the film wins is in the way it depicts the losing as a victory. As a film, its heart is in the right place, stating to the audience that “your struggle is honorable”. Though you might feel like you’re fading away, your decision to plant your feet and do the best you can, given all the crap the world throws at you…well, bloody well-done on that! Of course, it’s a message that could easily come off cack-handed, but everything is layered with a firm eye on delivering the message with an informed sense of humour, coupled and a desire to reach out and put an arm around you.

Often it is an incidental shot that hits the hardest…and the funniest; Theron zombified and exhausted on the couch, stuffing snacks in her face while staring at semi-pornographic garbage on TV. It’s the kind of behaviour we’re all susceptible to – but one that’s accentuated simply and effectively to understand. It makes you think Reitman and Cody should always work together. Cody’s language achieves a chemistry with Rietman’s vision that allows the audience in.

Tully should play well to a wide audience – to anyone who’s brought up children or struggled to be human in the world. It depicts motherhood and marriage as a joyless slog and there’s something wholly refreshing about that. Theron is once again outstandingly gritty and as real as you might hope, which given her prominent association as a goddess of beauty for Christian Dior commercials is a feat in itself. Tully is a rare thing – a good film that’s asking you to take better care of yourself.

4/5

About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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1 Response to Tully (2018) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. Interesting take on this material. You responded to this much better than I, for my heart sank as soon as I realized what the titular plot-device meant. Tully’s amusing dream sequences and stark, flat cinematography are appropriate given the movie’s themes, but I found its “imaginary best friend” trope to be simplistic, heavy-handed, and somewhat antithetical to what the movie was trying to say about motherhood.
    A more complicated, nuanced use of the Tully character could’ve involved (1) her being real, a complete character, and (2) showing through her character that being a 20-something young adult isn’t all peaches and cream, either. Also, your point, “It depicts motherhood and marriage as a joyless slog and there’s something wholly refreshing about that,” feels puzzling to me, given how seemingly every other indie-drama criticizes the mundane grind of middle class or suburban culture (e.g. The Graduate [1967], American Beauty [1999], The Truman Show [1998], Up in the Air [2009], Blue Valentine [2010], The Way Way Back [2013], Lady Bird [2017], etc.).
    In light of all this, I don’t get the sidestream appeal of Reitman and Cody’s work, and find their work in general rather… mundane?

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