On long-haul flights I catch up on a year’s worth of cinema. When Z was little, we packed an arsenal of activities and books to avoid screen time, but now we just succumb. For a household that doesn’t own a television, we’re resigned to the fact that a few hours of non-stop, in-flight entertainment won’t kill us and some of the options available are actually educational like listening to audiobooks, matching colors and letters in Disney games, or watching Dora the Explorer in Arabic. In my own binging, I covered a variety of genres—action, drama, family—but the film that left me in deep thought was Tully.
Starring Charlize Theron as Marlo, the story centers around her as an overwhelmed mom of three. The second child has special needs while the third is an unplanned new baby. Marlo’s brother offers to pay for a night nanny to help his sister avoid the post-partum depression she experienced following her previous childbirth. Initially reluctant, a breakdown forces her to reconsider and so begins her relationship with the night nanny, Tully.
Tully is vibrant, compassionate, and endearing. Though quirky, she affirms Marlo and helps by caring for the newborn at night, cleaning up the house, baking cupcakes and the like. However, she poignantly points out that her real job is to take care of Marlo because the newborn is in essence an extension of her. This theme evolves into Tully listening to Marlo’s hopes, frustrations, regrets, and dreams. All in all, Tully’s most important task is helping Marlo get back to herself while validating and marveling at the excellent job she’s already doing as a mom.
I won’t go any further in explaining the story for fear of spoiling it, but I feel very strongly that all moms need the kind of encouraging and reminding presence that Tully brings to Marlo’s life. Through their relationship, Marlo remembers what makes her happy, that she is more than a mom, and needs to prioritize self-care. Especially following The Big Reconnect Sleepover, I am more vigilant about this idea of self-care and how critical it is to safeguard and protect mothers from cracking under the tremendous pressure we may face to do, do, do. It’s also worth noting that Marlo’s husband works full-time and though involved with the children by helping with homework, packing lunches, and bedtime routines, he too forgot that Marlo needs his care and attention too. Moms are superheroes in the lives of those around us but still very much humans to ourselves.
Lastly, there is a point where Marlo’s return to self becomes wreckless. She channels so much of her younger self that she endangers her life. This is also an important point, in my opinion. While we may glorify our younger selves in terms of freedom, appearance, or perspective, we do grow in other ways as parents that are meaningful and rich. It’s important to maintain the balance of invoking youthfulness without its folly.
Note: I watched an edited version of the film but it does portray the consumption of alcohol and sexual content.