Tully: Night nanny saves the day

May 11, 2018


Tully (M)

Rating: 4.5 / 5


Tully is a totally new take on the business of birth, parenting and family dynamics.

The stereotype of new life is that it’s a joyous experience in a happy-ever-after kind of way.

However, for many families, life isn’t like that and Tully lifts the lid on what adjusting to parenthood and the overwhelming responsibility for children is really like. But it’s not a film of gloom and doom. It’s a comedy-drama—taking us on a rollercoaster life ride before we arrive at a happy and satisfying conclusion.

Marlo (Charlize Theron) is a 40-year-old mother of two, to witty eight-year-old Sarah (Lia Frankland) and five-year-old Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica)—a loving boy with unspecified special needs, who can go from serenity to rage in the twinkling of an eye.

Baby number three is imminent and from the opening scene Marlo is already feeling overwhelmed by the challenges of her family, despite a loving and supportive relationship with husband Drew (Ron Livingston).

Marlo’s wealthy brother Craig (Mark Duplass) sees that Marlo and Ron are struggling and suggests he provide them with a night nanny to help take off the pressure. The nanny would come in after 10 pm and care for the baby until early morning, allowing the exhausted mum to catch up on much-needed sleep.

Initially, Marlo resents what she feels is a patronising offer, but it becomes obvious that Craig’s heart is in the right place, when he mutters, “I just want my sister back!” 

However, after a slanging match at Jonah’s school over the need to find him a different one that can cope with him, Marlo realises that her grip on sanity has become tenuous, and calls in the night nanny.

Enter Tully (Mackenzie Davis), a 26-year-old slim, free spirit—all the things that Marlo is not. Tully immediately provides the practical and emotional support that Marlo is missing, and in no small way gradually helps her regain her sanity, identity and confidence to go on with life.

While Theron is an authoritative and superb screen presence, Davis simply lights up the movie with her charismatic performance. Teaming these two fine actors is a masterstroke that significantly boosts the film’s quality and effect. 

Tully has a major impact on the family by simply filling the gaps that occur during a stressful time of life. While some of her ideas are a little confronting and unusual, the end result of her work is a family that gradually rediscovers its harmony.

There have been media references to Tully being a ‘Mary Poppins’ character. However, she is closer to Emma Thompson’s Nanny McPhee in the film of that name, who explains that when the family no longer needs her, but wants her, it is time to move on. And that’s exactly what Tully does, reassuring Marlo that she is no longer broken, has the strength to lead her family again and can believe in herself. 

Tully is a confronting, thought-provoking and wonderful film with wisdom for us all.

Highlight: Brilliant performances from Charlize Theron and Mackenzie Davis

Red flag: Adult themes, language, nudity


Tags: Salvation Army Australia

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Vol. 139, No. 14 // 11 April 2020

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