We need to talk about Tully

We need to talk about Tully

So, as I said on my Facebook page – I saw Tully the other night and I’ve had a lot of feelings about it. I found it really difficult to watch and as such it’s really difficult to review. Reviews for me are usually fairly easy to do – I don’t think film reviewing is a particularly important thing at all. It’s a fairly pointless thing to do in my view – which is why I like doing it. It’s not important writing and I don’t need to think too hard. It’s a turn off my brain hobby for me – just a bit of fun – other people take my film reviews far more seriously than I ever take them.

And then a movie comes along like Tully and it’s hard to work out what to say about it – I don’t review all of the movies I see, I’m not paid to do this, so I could just ignore it. But I want to talk about it, as much as I’m not sure how I feel about it.

I guess I’ll just jump right in and say – the marketing sucks and they should feel bad. In my view Tully is totally marketed as a feel good movies for new mums. A you’ll totally relate to this film. I mean – I could absolutely relate to that trailer. Who hasn’t dropped a phone on their kid’s head? And it’s clearly suggested that the film is full of these “isn’t this just so us?” comic moments.

Except this movie is not a feel-good movie about real parenting. This movie is a grim and heartbreaking work that is really important. And what frustrates me is that it could have stood on its own merits instead of pulling a bait and switch with vulnerable mothers. The irony of a movie about a vulnerable mother being marketed in such a way that it surprises new parents with horror is just beyond really.

You might think it’s a realistic Bad Moms. But it’s more like The Babadook (an amazing film – that is also very heavy). But The Babadook was not framed as a rom com dramedy as it is in fact a psychological horror film.

So does that mean I hated it? No. I found it devastatingly accurate. Painfully real. Especially as a mum who has suffered from PND and anxiety – and recently *deep breath* a really bad mental health break.

I don’t want to go into details, but earlier this year I had a breakdown and ended up in hospital. I can’t describe how much it hurt. I went offline for two weeks, took as much leave from my jobs as I could, and my sister came over from Australia to help care for me. It was agony – not being able to trust yourself with yourself is a pain I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I almost lost everything and not a day goes by that I don’t think about it.

So to go out to a film for a bit of a night off (as many mums seeing it are expecting based on the trailer) and instead have well…what the film actually is was rough as guts.

And this is the shitty part – I have to say “Spoilers ahead” to talk about it. And that kind of sucks. Here is this thing we need to talk about, that has been turned into a spoiler. I’m not sure how I feel about that. We need to talk about Tully – but we’re gagged because to do so “ruins” the movie. That’s not right is it?

I fear for the mums who leave the cinema and sit in their car and feel numb. My bestie and I had tried to go to a comedy show after but instead of laughing we mostly just sat close to each other, hands almost touching, waiting for that sinking feeling to dissipate. The morning after I sobbed in my husband’s arms. In saying that – it’s a good film, whatever that means. It’s raw and real and we need it. It’s visceral (I swear I had boob pangs during it like I almost started fucking lactating again).

And I don’t agree with a lot of the criticism around it.

And if you had an easy ride with parenting – you’ll probably be fine. It’ll probably just be a buzzkill for you. But if you’ve struggled – it’s a lot.

If you’re booked to see it (as I know many mums are): I think it’s an amazing movie and I felt incredibly seen, but I want you to be prepared for how hard it is to watch if you’ve had a rough time with your mental health. Go with a friend, take some time afterward to talk through your feelings. Don’t go alone. x

So I don’t know spoilers ahead …..sigh. If you don’t want it to be “spoiled” STOP HERE.

As I said – I don’t agree with the key critiques I’ve read of the film. So here they are specifically:

On Marlo’s lack of treatment: I found the ending to be realistic. After my breakdown I made changes to my life. But mostly, life goes on. My sister cuddled me like I was a baby and I got to be small again for a few days, I went on some stronger medication – I tried to negotiate some boundaries with my work. But mostly? I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. There isn’t “treatment” in the way that so many well-meaning and kind-hearted people think there is. There certainly isn’t treatment in a country without universal healthcare. I talked to my husband about this – about the ending which had Marlo’s husband standing next to her making lunches…I’m lucky enough to have a husband who is all in with parenting, he’s been better for my mental health than anything else. He checks in on me throughout the day, reminds me to take my medication, makes sure I eat properly on bad days, and makes me sleep when I’m struggling. Sometimes that’s your treatment. What else would treatment look like? The reality here in my experience is: You’re released from hospital, you get some new meds, you get a referral to some therapy you can’t afford so you only go twice, and then you get a follow-up call a month later. Don’t demand more from a movie than what we have in the real world.

On Marlo’s lack of diagnosis: PND and Post-natal Psychosis often go undiagnosed. To me, that was the point of the film. Even after she’d suffered “some bad stuff” as her husband described after the birth of her second son, nobody picked up (or cared?) that she was suffering again. I quite liked that it was never labelled because that seemed true to life to me. Another thing is – it’s a film with an element of fantasy. Tully is what Marlo needed – she represents in a way something that all mothers need. The way Tully inserted herself into “intimate” moments was a bit of light hearted relief – but it was also beautiful. I felt pain in my tits watching the film because it was SO REAL about breastfeeding. And to have someone gazing lovingly at you while you parent – reminding you how amazing you are, how you created a family and this is so hard but my god look at you! You’re doing it! Well, what parent doesn’t need that? What if Tully is what we wish society was like? Or how we wish mothers were seen? Someone who recognises our yearning for freedom even as we yearn for our children. When you turn this into “she had post-natal psychosis” and end it there – I don’t know, that doesn’t feel right to me? But I’m not a mental health expert – so I would defer to those views.

On mental illness as a bait and switch: I do hate that the twist is mental illness. But I do love that we are talking about it. I do desperately want people to talk about this. Would we be talking about it otherwise? I don’t know. I still remain firmly uncomfortable with the marketing of the film, but I absolutely do not feel the two mothers involved (Diablo Cody – mum of three and Charlize Theron – mum of two) have “slapped mothers with PND in the face”. That doesn’t do any kindness to them. That also treats mothers with PND or other post-natal mental illnesses as a monolithic unit who all have the same opinions.

Most of all – I want people who aren’t mothers to see the film. I want people to consider their role in what happens to Marlo. What struck me more than anything else was how Marlo had not one kind interaction outside of her children before “Tully” turns up. She desperately needs Tully. We all need Tully.

I want people to consider how nobody cared enough to see Marlo. They didn’t help her – they actively avoided her. The night-time cycle of baby cries/nappy changed/bottle/rocking was SO REAL. I hope it provides insight into those lonely hours that nobody understands except mothers.

I want husbands and boyfriends and partners to consider their role in this. Her husband never cared enough to check in on her at night. That line where he says at the doctor’s surgery ‘she’d never leave the kids on their own with nobody to look after them’ and the doctor says “weren’t you home?” fucking OOF. Punched in the heart.

If anything comes from this movie I just hope it’s that people open their eyes and see mothers. Before it’s too late.


If you liked this or any of my other posts and you want to support me you could put my name forward for events or get people to commission me for writing or you could make a one off donation or support me through my Patreon account. If you’ve supported me by sharing one of my posts, making a comment, or making a donation – I can’t ever thank you enough. Ngā mihi nui. E x