When was the last time you cried in a movie?* I mean, a good old-fashioned bawl thanks to the contents punching you in the stomach and squeezing your heart, not just as a reaction to the emotional turmoil of the characters the screen?
*LGBTQ+ members who’ve attended the cinema in the last 12 months need not answer - it’s amazing you aren’t hooked up to a drip right know due to extreme dehydration.
I’ve made no attempts to hide my undying love of the 2007 film ‘Juno’. It won its first-time screenwriter Diablo Cody an Academy Award and it nabbed its director Jason Reitman his first Best Director nomination. They were a match made in indie heaven - hence the twice more repeated partnership. Both parties have... let’s say, struggled to make a cinematic splash of late with their last noteworthy entry being 2011’s ‘Young Adult’, so it would make sense to return to the formula that made them great - each other - plus the addition of the actor that made them greater: Charlize Theron. Bring that all together and you have one of the most brilliant and depressing films ever. So grab a pal and a bottle of vino and prepare thyself to ugly cry.
Marlo (Theron) is a 40-something year-old mother of two with a third on the way. She’s overworked, overtired and overlooked. With one “normal” child and one complicated child everyone keeps describing as “quirky” without telling her what that actually means, a newborn isn’t exactly the most welcome idea. Then there’s her husband Drew (Ron Livingston, ‘The Conjuring’). He’s a loving husband and father but... you know those people who aren't technically doing anything wrong, but aren’t doing anything right either? Yeah, he’s one of those people. So when Marlo’s wealthy bother Craig (Mark Duplass, ‘The One I Love’) offers her a night nanny as a baby gift she eventually and reluctantly accepts the help. Enter Tully (Mackenzie Davis, ‘Blade Runner 2049’). Tully is a beautiful, young, free-spirited encyclopaedia whose presence instantly makes Marlo’s life more rested and free. With a shiny new trusted confidant in her life, Marlo transforms into the happy, bubbly Marlo everyone loves as her marriage and children beginning to thrive along with her, but this gift masks a deeper darker secret that threatens to unravel everything.
It’s no exaggeration to say that ‘Tully’ had me in tears less than a minute in. Instantly and with little to no dialogue, Reitman has you enveloped in the depressing monotony of this thankless life of a mother of three. No great tragedy has befallen our protagonist here, she’s just like all of us - overwhelmed by life and struggling to reconcile the life she has with the one she always thought she wanted. Many have tried but none have been able to capture so succinctly the beautifully melancholic life of a mother as she struggles with what may seem like small hiccups in a day but are actually pieces of a much larger picture of events a mother is tasked with overcoming despite, not being qualified or equipped to handle, yet society says she should be.
Many have tried but none have been able to capture so succinctly the beautifully melancholic life of a mother.
Theron’s performance is so stunning that just thinking about it makes me what to cry again. If this filmmaking power trio were to only make movies together until the end of time, I for one would welcome it. The trust that these three have in each other is palpable. Cody trusts Reitman with her words, her vision and the female voice, and Theron trusts him implicitly with herself. She’s not wearing makeup, has a really bad haircut and has transformed herself one again, physically - and it all pays off.
Over the last eight years, Cody herself has become a mother, twice over. Over time we’ve seen her views shine thorough in her work. It should come as no surprise that her newfound motherhood has gifted us with this remarkable screenplay. The sarcasm and laughs may not be as frequent anymore but they’ve been replaced with something much more hearty - wisdom and empathy. In ‘Juno’ we all learned and delighted in Diablo’s quick, sharp wit and her expertise in pop culture. In ‘Young Adult’, we learned that she wasn’t immune to the pressures of adulthood and growing the fuck up. Now, this talented woman lends her unique and gifted voice to the most glorious, selfless martyrs - mothers. Together with Reitman they have told an exquisite story that will make your soul feel pain, but ultimately come out the other side a better and more understanding person.