Tully Movie Review: Why This Movie Perfectly Addresses Postpartum Mental Health Issues [Contains Necessary Spoilers]

Tully Movie Review: Why This Movie Perfectly Addresses Postpartum Mental Health Issues [Contains Necessary Spoilers]

I love doing movie reviews and hate including spoilers. However, this one will contain spoilers – but only necessary ones. With Tully, I want to talk less about the acting, directing and writing, and more about the bigger conversation that has started online because of this movie, which hits theaters this Friday. Tully stars Charlize Theron, Ron Livingston and Mackenzie Davis and is written by Diablo Cody. From this point on EXPECT SPOILERS in our Tully movie review and please do not read further if you don’t want me to “ruin” the movie for you – though I assure you that I will do my best not to. I will definitely not be revealing anything than has not already been shared by others.

Tully is about Marlo [Charlize Theron] as a mom who is, like most moms, overwhelmed at times. She has two children and is very pregnant with one on the way. My favorite part in the movie is when she talks about her pregnancy as a “blessing.” The look on her face and the tone in her voice definitely does not give the impression that she is feeling particularly blessed in this moment. She says this in a sarcastic enough tone, though, that people can just overlook her as snarky, without really delving deeper into her actual pain, barely veiled by her dark humor.

To me, this sets the tone for the entire movie. Marlo is a woman in pain who is simply not getting the help that she needs. And, sadly, that is how mental health issues are still treated, in particular, women’s mental health issues. I am definitely not a psychologist, but I do have a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. I was also a mother who suffered from Postpartum Depression. So I feel that I can speak to this subject with, not authority, but more expertise than your average lay person.

Tully [Mackenzie Davis] is the night nanny that is hired for Marlo as a gift by her brother [Mark Duplass] in the film. In the end, Tully is only an imagined younger version of Marlo. To me, this is definitely her inner cry for help. She kind of knows what she needs. And though she doesn’t know how to get it in reality, she is able to get it in her mind. I mean, most moms can not afford the luxury of a night nanny and Charlize’s character is no different. Of course, her mental escape could be just her coping mechanism to help her deal with her extremely high stress level. I think most of us have had imaginary friends or have escapes into our fantasies from time to time. However, in Marlo’s case, I think these are actual hallucinations, a sign of something far more serious that needs to be addressed immediately.

People keep arguing online as to whether Marlo has Postpartum Depression or Postpartum Psychosis. I get that. A friend shared with me an excellent article at Motherly that addresses that very issue. I definitely see the great points that the author made, so let me address that “elephant” right now.

Yes, I agree that she is suffering from Postpartum Psychosis and not Postpartum Depression, too. But, unlike others, I don’t think it even matters. To me, people are missing the point. It’s that mothers simply don’t always get the help they need either physically or emotionally. Women rarely get breaks and, as mothers, we have been conditioned over many, many years that taking care of children, running errands and cleaning the house is a woman’s job. A man’s job is to earn the paycheck. Woman’s work is also often not seen as actual “work” and, because of this, it’s a thankless job in many ways.

Tully Movie Review: Why This Movie Perfectly Addresses Postpartum Mental Health Issues [Contains Necessary Spoilers]

Though that view is changing some, we see in Tully that Marlo’s husband [Ron Livingston], though a nice enough guy, totally checks out of “work” after a certain time in the day and spends the rest of it playing video games. He makes sure that he gets his break, without really considering that his wife might need or appreciate one as well. His aloofness is made abundantly clear when he states something to the effect of not understanding why his wife left the children “at home alone.” Though he was in the home with the kids the entire time, it simply didn’t occur to him that they also belong to him and thus are his responsibility to take care of equally.

One thing I need to point out is that I don’t recall ever seeing Marlo speak to an actual mental health professional. People online are talking about how the doctor diagnosed her with Postpartum Depression. Sure, but not all doctors are well-versed in every area of medicine, are they? Would you go to an oncologist for your eye exam? Would you go to a brain surgeon for your knee replacement? I would certainly hope not. So, why people think an emergency room physician or a general practitioner is the perfect person to see for a very serious mental health condition is beyond me.

But, sadly, what happened in this movie is what happens to mothers every single day. Women are either scared to ask for help because of the stigma surrounding mental health issues, they feel inadequate asking for help with something that other women seem to be able to do just fine [because none of us are talking about how we are actually not fine], or they simply don’t have the support, time or money to seek out medical intervention when necessary. And, for women who actually do try to get help, they often get a diagnosis and medicine thrown at them after waiting 1.5 hours with screaming kids for a 15 minute visit with a doctor who doesn’t actually specialize in mental health who may or may not actually listen to what they have to say. This just isn’t good enough.

Tully Movie Review: Why This Movie Perfectly Addresses Postpartum Mental Health Issues [Contains Necessary Spoilers]

It’s simply not Diablo Cody’s job to correctly diagnose mental illness. It’s her job to create a beautiful story line that resonates with women and creates a great atmosphere and enough interest for a healthy conversation. It’s Charlize Theron’s job to bring to life a character that new mothers can see themselves in, relate to and empathize with. And I definitely saw myself, in many ways, in Marlo. The point of the movie is not to solve the stigma of mental health issues. That’s our job. This isn’t normal, and no one should feel like it is. If you need help, you should feel comfortable asking for it. And when you ask for it, you should actually get the help you need. I think the point of Tully is to open a dialog on a topic that many women historically have not been comfortable sharing and discussing. And now we are talking about these issues in a huge way, aren’t we?

I encourage you to see Tully when it hits theaters this Friday. Then be sure to join in the conversation. I would love to know what you think.

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About Dawn McAlexander

Dawn has been a music lover her entire life. She went to college in Boone, NC, an area that is rich in music and culture. She also worked as a radio deejay for 8 years and grew up in Southeastern, Va, a melting pot of different musical styles and traditions. She has been to more concerts than she can count in every genre you can imagine. She resides in North Carolina with her furbabies and her massive collection of Disney memorabilia.

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