Tully is an American comedy-drama directed by Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody. The star of the 2018 film, Charlize Theron, plays the role of a nursing mother who struggles to raise her kids. Her husband, played by Ron Livingston (from A Million Little Things), is not aware his wife is suffering from mental illness. This movie tells the story of an unhappy woman whose health issues are ignored by those around her.
As a young woman, motherhood is one thing I’m scared to experience. I get nervous when people talk about the challenges that come with raising a family, how exhausting children can be, and the sacrifices that are made. I sometimes question myself if there are any perks to being a wife and a mother because lots of women give up their dreams/careers for this. Although reasons might differ with every individual, the most common one is stress.
This movie shows that while women are perceived as strong and brave, most struggle with being a partner and a caregiver. The movie also addresses the issue of mental illness, which is very common among women. The APA statistics show that 1 in every 5 women has a mental health problem such as depression, PTSD, anxiety, or an eating disorder.
Marlo is a mother of two kids and expecting an unplanned third child. She struggles to take care of her son, Jonah, who has a developmental disorder. Her husband barely pulls any weight in the house which makes it more difficult. One evening, Marlo and her husband go to her brother’s house for dinner and he suggests paying for a night nanny to ease her stress. He mentions that her behavior has changed over the years and he just wants her back to being herself. She declines his help and says she will never be comfortable with someone else caring for her kids.
Weeks after, Jonah’s school principal tells Marlo that her son will be better off in a different school due to his condition. Marlo snaps at the principal and walks out of the office. She breaks down in the car and then decides to contact the night nanny her brother had suggested.
That evening, the nanny, Tully, arrives at the house. Marlo thinks she’s weird because she is friendly and charming, and appears to exist solely to take care of Marlo and her baby, Mia. Tully is very helpful around the house; cleaning, baking, caring for Mia and building a relationship with Marlo. One night, Tully suggests a threesome with Marlo and her husband, Drew. Marlo tells Tully that Drew has a fetish for women in the 1950s diner waitress uniform. Tully puts on the uniform to seduce Drew and they engage in sexual activities.
Things take a different turn when Tully arrives for her night duties distressed. Marlo is worried and asks Tully to take a break if she needs it. Tully suggests they drive to the city to get a drink and just breathe. Marlo is reluctant at first, but soon agrees and drives them to Brooklyn. After a few drinks, Tully tells Marlo that she cannot continue to work for her because she was only there to bridge a gap and it has been done. Marlo breaks down in tears confused as to why her nanny was leaving her.
On their way back home, they both drift to sleep, and the car crashes into the river. Marlo envisions Tully as a mermaid who comes to save her from drowning.
At the hospital, a psychiatrist approaches Drew with some questions about Marlo’s mental state. The doctor tells him that Marlo was suffering from extreme exhaustion and sleep deprivation. When asked about the nanny, Drew says he doesn’t know her. He also mentions that “Tully” is Marlo’s maiden name.
Tully never existed. She was just an extension of Marlo, meant to represent a younger version of her to cope with stress. She was overwhelmed with everything and didn’t realize she’d been hallucinating. On her bed, Tully visits Marlo one last time and they both decide to part amicably.
Charlize Theron (Marlo), as always, did an amazing job with this role. I read that she gained weight to look the part of a depressed mother. After seeing this movie, I can say Charlize is one of the best actresses to ever live. Hollywood will continue to soar high because of the efforts directors and producers put into creating beautiful films. I’d easily give the movie 8/10 and recommend to everyone because the message they were trying to pass across was heard.
Tully addresses mental illness issues in the society, especially with nursing mothers. Many fall into postpartum depression or psychosis, and most times, it isn’t recognized because exhaustion is often seen as a norm. People go about their lives with diseases that have long-term consequences if not caught and treated properly.
Although, critics say that the movie ends abruptly because we don’t know if proper measures to curb Marlo’s illness were taken. I believe the producers were aiming to create awareness, which they did. They pointed out that we need to pay more attention to ourselves and the people close to us. Marlo’s husband ignored all the signs and it affected her greatly.
Postpartum depression and Postpartum psychosis are two different illnesses. Marlo had the latter and it caused her to be confused, disorganized, delusional, and hallucinate. Postpartum psychosis is often a manifestation of bipolar disorder and more common with women that have a preexisting bipolar condition. The society worsens these issues by describing and depicting motherhood as a glowing and happy time which is not always the case.
Maternal mental illness is real and scary and it can be caused by various reasons. This is a way to raise awareness and keep talking about the importance of recognizing and treating these illnesses for all the suffering mothers and children.