“We have a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.”
There are very few, if any, moments that penetrate deeper into the confines of the human experience than what mother’s have to overcome through the miracle of pregnancy. A confluence of struggle and joy, here, in the epicenter of human potential comes the process of sheer actuality in the exhibitionism of birth. If nothing makes sense, this does: the process of life, or the building of a child from scratch, where its DNA continues to flow through the blood stream of past uncoverings, must be considered by all an act of sheer brilliance.
Tully is a film that captures much of this brightness. A mother (Charlize Theron) on the brink of her third child, struggling to raise a daughter facing the age of insecurities and a son, who in our culture of narcissism, would be prime candidate for life-ending procedures. A father (Ron Livingston), largely amiss (“a paragon of uselessness”) and still showing signs of infantile proclivities, is a shadow. Exactly the way to paint so many fathers and a cleverly positioned piece of writing from Diablo Cody to continue lighting bright the only true element deserving our attention. One of the best shot scenes is that moment where Theron is sprawled out exhausted and unavailable to respond to the children’s personified image of home invaders.
Theron is excellent: managing to capture the two sides of motherhood through the entangled bodies of her former performances in Monster and Mad Max. The writing was top notch, certainly a stark improvement from the last two collaborations between Cody and Jason Reitman. The story took chances: fixing what was otherwise strange and poorly decided directions and redeeming it through a layered piece of self-discovery.
It’s remarkable that in the span of reviewing most films favorably, the one soft-ball that Variety gets, they screw it up, letting Owen Gleiberman’s obliviousness miss Cody’s rich layering of the strength of a woman’s potential. And, I have no idea what Anthony Lane (New Yorker) is talking about when he calls Theron’s moments of understandable frustrations as “a basic reluctance to lead the life,” but from his recent reviews, he seems to be easily distracted by non-issues. And the fact that the plot twist in Tully is overused is a mindless criticism without discussing its ad hoc effectiveness. And the fact that some critics like Leigh Monson (Birth. Movies. Death.) can’t relate to the film because they’re not mothers or have “designs on parenthood” speaks volumes about their capacity to grade the richest of storytelling that fall outside their respective echo chambers.
In the end, Tully offers what Kyle Smith grasped so well: “in its gentle humor it carries a necessary reminder to pay more attention to the plight of mothers everywhere.” And maybe then can we perhaps relate more with what J.D. Salinger had to say: “[m]others are all slightly insane.”