[Screen It]


(2018) (Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis) (R)

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Drama: After just having had her third child, a forty-something woman finds her sanity saved and starts to return to normalcy after she hires a night nanny who helps her just as much as she does her baby.
Marlo (CHARLIZE THERON) is a forty-something woman who's raising two kids -- Sarah (LIA FRANKLAND) and Jonah (ASHER MILES FALLICA) -- with her husband, Drew (RON LIVINGSTON), with another child due any day now. While Sarah is a good kid, Jonah is a handful, and when the new baby arrives, Marlo soon finds herself at her wits' end.

Learning that her rich brother, Craig (MARK DUPLASS), and his wife, Elyse (ELAINE TAN), used a night nanny to help them get through the tough parenting times, Marlo eventually concedes she needs help and allows her brother to give her the gift of Tully (MACKENZIE DAVIS).

She's a 26-year-old single woman who instantly connects with both Marlo and her infant, and quickly allows the mom to start to regain her sanity, self-confidence and free spirit she once had when she was Tully's age. As their bond grows tighter and Marlo enjoys life again, she must contend with news that threatens to derail her newfound happiness and free time.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
I have no idea when the first nanny was hired -- or more likely forced into servitude -- but I'm guessing the thought crossed most every prehistoric human mother's mind at one point or another.

After all, while most other species in the animal kingdom send their offspring out into the real world a year or two (and sometimes far less) into their young lives, human babies are extremely dependent on others to survive for years after that. Not to mention noisy, rambunctious and likely the genesis of the phrase "more than a handful," especially as their sibling count grows larger.

So, at some point, a non family member was brought on to help care for the tykes and mothers rejoiced at the notion of some quiet "me time" away from the ruckus and 24-hour cycle of being needed. Of course, in the old days those were usually limited to rich households, but nowadays nannies are fairly common and allow women (and men) to regain some degree of their sanity -- if only for a few hours -- away from the maelstrom of being a parent.

Such is the premise behind "Tully," the third behind the camera collaboration between director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody (who previously worked together on "Juno" and "Young Adult") and the second featuring Charlize Theron playing the protagonist. In what seems to be a natural aging progression for Reitman and Cody, we've gone from a story about a pregnant teen to a stunted adult to a full-on mother of three.

But Theron doesn't embody the title character as one might expect. Instead, she plays Marlo, a forty-something woman who's about ready to pop and already has her hands full with two young kids (Lia Frankland and Asher Miles Fallica), with one of them representing the "more than a handful" regiment (one assumes he's somewhere on the autism scale, but that's never fully examined).

Once the new bundle of joy arrives, any last remnants of sanity and self fly out the window. And it doesn't help that her husband (Ron Livingston) might be good with the kids when he gets home from work, but then quickly retreats to the bedroom to play headset equipped first-person shooter video games.

With the last straw clearly in sight, Marlo accepts the offer from her brother (Mark Duplass) and sister-in-law (Elaine Tan) to copy them and use a night nanny to take both the pressure and edge off. Enter our title character (Mackenzie Davis) who sweeps in like a modern-day Mary Poppins and knows exactly what to do with the new and pre-existing kiddos as well as the well-worn mom.

Marlo and Tully seem to be kindred spirits from different generations but with lives and lifestyles that are obviously disparate. The quickly bond and it's not long before Tully starts to pull out the "old" Marlo from the parental battlefield, with lots of discussion about various matters, all as filtered through scribe Cody's to-be-expected creative dialogue.

To go any further into the story would be a disservice to moviegoers who enjoy unexpected plot developments, but it really shouldn't surprise anyone that something would pop up as a story about a newly freed and recharged mom doesn't hold a lot of dramatic weight on its own. Some might anticipate what's around the corner in the third act. I didn't, but appreciate how things play out as it makes everything that preceded (as well as follows) that all the more profound.

Featuring snappy dialogue, terrific performances from Theron (who literally lets everything hang out there in all of its rawness) and Davis (who's a delight to watch), just the right directorial touch from Reitman, and a cool acoustic rendition of the James Bond title song "You Only Live Twice" in one scene, "Tully" will not only give beleaguered moms someone to root for, but will also handily entertain anyone else who happens to watch this, whether there's a nanny at home or not. "Tully" rates as a 6.5 out of 10.

Reviewed April 25, 2018 / Posted May 4, 2018

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