Cultural Bulletin
Cultural Bulletin is a quarterly magazine that provides an international view of creative work. We look to film, music, design and art as signifiers of our cultural moment.

In Review: Tully


Director: Jason Reitman


This is the third outing for director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody who brought us Young Adult and the endearing Juno.

Exhaustion, nappies, milk, feed, pump, exhaustion. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Heavily pregnant Marlo knows what’s coming. She sits in the Principal’s office at the school of her two children and with weariness in her eyes smiles, rubs her bump and manages: ‘such a blessing’. 

The anxiety of what is to come is exacerbated by the fact that Marlo and her husband Drew (Ron Livingstone) have a son, Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica), who is a demanding child requiring specific attention. He kicks and screams and his school has had enough.

The impending unmanageability becomes clearer as we are introduced to the comparison of her wealthy bougie brother Craig and his wife Elyse (Mark Duplass and Elaine Tan), who feed their young children truffle mac and cheese; one of whom is competing in a talent show with her special performance: Pilates. However, they offer Marlo a solution - a night nanny. 

After resisting the idea, the fatigue of early motherhood leads Marlo to cave and invite one into her home. Tully, a 26-year-old Mary Poppins millennial breezes into the chaos. She immediately takes the reigns. She bakes cakes. She quotes Samuel Pepys. We share Marlo’s passive bafflement at Tully’s perpetual capability. She is a walking self-help manual, giving Marlo the space to breathe, to ‘see things in colour’ again. The relief of help begins to be tainted by a question mark over Tully’s head. Is anyone actually this able? And where do these people come from? 

Cody and Reitman land us right in the middle of the trials of parenthood with an ease that allows us to invest. A funny script with idiosyncratic detail gives way for defined performances. Charlize Theron is fantastic as Marlo: the strain of raising 3 young children embeds a cynicism and middle-distance empty glare into a woman who is stuck in a relentless routine.  We empathise entirely with her decision to allow an oddly too-good-to-be-true night nanny to help. Mackenzie Davis nails the free spirit of Tully yet keeps us guessing. A smile too wide to believe, a well of knowledge beyond her years. She is the perfect nanny to be trusted, but why can’t we?

After a plot twist that became inevitable as the film progressed, the realities of early motherhood are laid bare. The truths of domesticity and young family life are brought to the front, asking what it can take from a mother to receive such a blessing. SC