The San Francisco International Film Festival (SFFilm) continues to impress as it celebrates 56 years of presenting innovative documentaries and extraordinary films over a two-week period.
As part of this annual celebration of film, Charlize Theron was honored at the Castro Theater before the showing of her new film, Tully. Arriving 30 minutes late due to a “wardrobe malfunction,” she was welcomed with enthusiasm and answered questions from an interviewer as well as the audience. Originally from South Africa, she worked as a model before turning to acting. When she was 15, her mother killed her drunken father in self defense and she sent Charlize to Europe to begin a new life.
As the film opens, Marlo (Charlize Theron) is nine months pregnant with her third child. She is a hard-working suburban homemaker dealing with a son who has learning disabilities. Her husband travels a lot on business (Ron Livingston). Their income is ordinary. She is coping, just barely. Then the third child is born, with her attentive husband Drew standing by.
Recovering from that third pregnancy is slow going. Newborns are demanding. Marlo is exhausted. And suddenly it all seems to be too much.
Let someone help, her affluent brother suggests. And he sends her a night nanny named Tully (Mackenzie Davis). The development of their friendship, as Marlo learns to trust her, is central to the film.
Academy Award-winning actress Charlize Theron once again shows her versatility in a moving portrayal of a wife and mother seemingly overwhelmed by the birth of her third child. From serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster (2003), to a coal miner fighting harassment in North Country (2005), to a police detective struggling to solve a murder case in the film In the Valley of Elah (2007), Theron has shown her versatility and willingness to take on roles which stretch boundaries.
Mackenzie Davis as Tully almost steals the film from Theron. Slender and wide-eyed – the opposite of poor Marlo – she slips into the house in the middle of the night, thoroughly familiar with all that Marlo is experiencing. After all, this is not her first assignment as a night nanny. Although never at a loss for reassuring answers, Tully prefers to show what she can do, rather than tell. Gradually chaos becomes something remote instead of being a daily presence in the household of Marlo and Drew. Gradually life improves as Tully applies her quiet expertise and cares for the newborn Mia all night.
This film is the third collaboration between director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno and Young Adult). Between Diablo Cody’s history of lively dialogue and Charlize Theron’s proven ability to display convincing anger and caustic wit, both humor and empathy are on display.
Despite her unimaginable level of exhaustion with constant breast feedings, Marlo soldiers on with caring for her other two children, preparing meals, taking the kids to school and exploding in anger from time to time at life’s simple absurdities as she tries to be everything for everybody.
You will see pregnancy and childbirth in a different light after viewing this film.
There is a wonderful moment when Tully says to Marlo, “girls don’t heal; we’re covered in concealer,” as they bond and finally run off for a night on the town in New York City, to the music of Cyndi Lauper. And there is a touching moment when husband Drew says to his wife, “I love us,” and waits patiently for all to return to normal.
In 2005 actor Brooke Shields (Blue Lagoon, Pretty Baby) published a memoir entitled “Down Came the Rain,” in which she talked about how difficult it can be to recover from a pregnancy. Recovery is about so much more than losing the baby weight, as this film reminds us.
A good effort by all involved. You will see pregnancy and childbirth in a different light after viewing this film.