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Movie Review: 'Tully'

In 2007, screenwriter Diablo Cody burst onto the scene with the movie Juno. It was her first screenplay and it earned her an Oscar, as well as a nomination for Best Picture, among others.

I liked Juno very much, but I need to point out that one of the criticisms of the movie is that it was just a bit too clever for its own good. The emotions rang true, but the characters didn’t exactly talk like real people talk. Cody has written plenty since then, but I hadn’t seen any of it until her new movie, Tully, came out this week. And it’s clear that things have changed for Diablo Cody as a writer over the years.

Tully stars Charlize Theron as a mother of two children, and who delivers a third not long into the movie. She’s married, but her husband works a lot and while he tries to help, he’s just a little bit oblivious to how strained Theron is as she works to raise the children. So, Theron’s rich brother hires her a “night nanny,” a woman who comes to watch the newborn at night so that Theron can get some sleep and be able to function in the daytime. This woman is Tully, and as she says, she’s not just there to watch the baby, but to help Theron with everything she needs.

Even though I’ve never been a mother, I was struck by how real the weight of Theron’s motherhood feels in Tully. We see a lot of her life that generally isn’t shown—the sheer drudgery and mess involved in taking care of three children, one of them an infant. And a lot of this is due to Diablo Cody’s writing. The characters here talk and act like real people do. And it helps us feel like we can know them.

Tully is definitely about motherhood, but it’s also very much about what it means to take stock of your life, to look around and try to figure out if things have turned out the way you wanted them to, to look back at who you once were and wonder how that person would feel about what you’ve become. None of this is easy, and Tully doesn’t offer tidy conclusions. Of course, neither does life.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.