In a coming of age story masterfully performed by Charlize Theron (“Atomic Blonde,” “Mad Max”), “Tully” depicts a fun-filled, yet dark tale of the beauty and struggle which accompanies raising a family and growing up. Directed by Jason Reitman, the film paints a picture of what life, love and romance look like after the honeymoon phase of marriage.
Forty-something Marlo (Theron) is coping with life-altering changes that occur after the birth of her newborn child. As Marlo’s middle son, Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica) suffers from a form of autism, he constantly requires attention from his mother. In an attempt to juggle work and family, Marlo begins exhausting herself and straining her relationships.
Enter Tully (Mackenzie Davis), a quirky, young night nanny hell-bent on making Marlo’s life easier. Tully does more than take care of the baby — she gives Marlo a new perspective on life by allowing her to live again. The two share heartfelt moments, which shows Marlo that aging might not be bad.
“Tully,” with its warm colors and decisive humor, offers a story that looks deeper into the human experience than one might ever want to.
The Phoenix sat down with director Jason Reitman (“Juno,” “Young Adult”) to talk about the film.
Reitman’s directing background has often focused on the character transition from teenage years into adulthood.
“I have to presume that the style of filmmaking in all three films [“Tully,“ “Juno,” “Young Adult”] is instinctual,” Reitman said. “I think that’s usually the case. Going into [“Tully”], [the team] knew we had set up the look and feel of the world in these films. We didn’t follow the usual process in coming up with the look and feel for “Tully”.
“Tully” is labeled a comedy, and the film uses humor to depict the often serious, dark subject of postpartum depression.
“It’s just point of view and what you find funny,” Reitman said. “I wanted to make a movie heroizing those who would otherwise be overlooked. I guess I see humor in tragedy.”
Scenes meant to illustrate Marlo’s deteriorating stability utilize subtle jabs to make the audience laugh, allowing the story to develop instead of wallowing in Marlo’s growing depression. This allows audiences to see Reitman’s eye for humor in tragedy, and Marlo’s meltdowns often seem comedic, not serious and depressing.
“Humor is a way to get to the truth a lot faster,” Reitman said. “Dramas dance around it. Comedy allows you to be honest right from the get-go.”
Marlo’s primary conflict takes place within herself. She struggles with her inability to accept she’s no longer a carefree twenty-year-old; it’s her free and reckless spirit which brings her and Tully closer together.
“You get to this age where you really start to think of your younger self as a different human being,” Reitman said. “That’s something that I do feel and understand.”
Reitman said the production team faced several obstacles during filming.
“The most difficult parts of this film to make was shooting a movie that has to take place at night between two people and a house … especially when you’re shooting on location instead of building a set,” Reitman said. “I always shoot on location.”
Screenwriter Diablo Cody worked alongside Reitman to create a story which showcases a less appealing side to motherhood few people are willing to address.
“I can’t pretend to know this stuff myself,” Reitman said. “I really relied on [Diablo’s] expertise and Charlize’s expertise.”
While the theme of motherhood is present in “Tully,” Reitman said he tried to look at the big picture and face the problem many people Marlo’s age encounter throughout their lives head-on.
“You’re watching a movie about a human being that’s coming to terms with their age,” Reitman said. “It’s about saying goodbye to your younger life and being okay with who you’ve become.”
“Tully” is currently in theaters nationwide.