Review: Tully

24 May 2018

Jason Reitman’s new film Tully is an extraordinary and sensitive portrayal of the difficulties of motherhood in the modern age. It follows Marlo, an overworked mother, portrayed by Charlize Theron, whose wealthy brother pays a night nanny to help her get some sleep after the birth of her third child. For a time, the film plays out almost as a fairy tale of what motherhood with proper support and community could look like. The ending, however, takes a dark turn that brings the film back into the reality of how little support women, for the most part, actually receive. Marlo pushes herself to breaking point attempting to be all things to all people—a perfect mother, a loving wife, a real human who exists with her own needs and wants outside of this—while her husband sits in bed playing video games, and it is tragically familiar for anyone who has witnessed the division of labour in many households.

Prior to the film, film critic Jan Epstein hosted a conversation with Hilary Harper and Clementine Ford, discussing the exact issues the film examines. Harper spoke of what she referred to as the “mythical village”, as in the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” She seemed to feel that the village had never actually existed, that it was simply a fantasy for overworked mothers, that raising children has always been an isolated and isolating experience. However, this viewpoint seems very based in a modern, patriarchal, capitalist society—there is no real reason that women must be responsible for so much of the work of childcare and housework, or even that children must be cared for only or primarily by their immediate families. A collaborative approach to something as complex as child-rearing can be incredibly useful for the child, and at worst a mother who is not completely worn down from trying to stay on top of the tasks that have to be done has far more physical and emotional energy for all aspects of their life. Under capitalism, we have increasingly moved towards a model in which we are isolated from our neighbours and communities, broken into discrete family units, and lost the support that the “village” would provide. However, to act as though this is the only way to live is utterly absurd, and the benefits of finding another way are immense. This is what Tully depicts—how much easier life can be with even one other pair of hands sharing the load, and the costs of living in such a way that this does not happen.

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