Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Tully Movie Poster Image
Female stars shine in dark comedy about motherhood.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 96 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Messages aren't always positive, but they're powerful and important: Modern motherhood is exhausting, can be unfair to women, who give and give but often have little support unless they're wealthy enough to outsource household and child-related duties. At one point, message seems to be messy, classist: that any overwhelmed mom will be happier if she can pay for a night nanny or housekeeper. But by the end, message switches to being about recognizing and treating postpartum depression, demanding partnerships with equitable and sustainable divisions of labor. Themes include compassion, empathy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Marlo is a hard-working but understandably overwhelmed mother of three (including a newborn). She loves her kids but needs to find the joy and balance in motherhood. Drew is a supportive, loving, caring husband, but somewhat clueless about what his wife is going through after birth of their third child. Marlo's much richer brother and his wife have full-time household help, so they can't relate to Marlo but still want to help her.


Marlo and Tully are in a serious/disturbing car accident that lands Marlo in the hospital.


A few marital kisses and one scene that seems like the beginning of an extramarital sex act between Tully and Marlo's husband, with Marlo's consent. Tully and Marlo discuss their current and past sex lives. It's clear Marlo is/was bisexual. Characters watch a racy TV show and talk about it; viewers see people having sex on TV (Gigolos), and there's a reference to spanking and a glimpse of a bare bottom. Nonsexual scenes of Marlo's nipple as she breastfeeds her baby.


Fairly frequent strong language includes "f--k," "a--hole," "s--t," "douche bag," "ass," "t-ts," "d--k," "boobs," "Jesus Christ," etc. In one scene, Marlo uses the word "retarded" a couple of times in reference to the way she believes the principal of her son's school views the boy.


Mercedes, iPhone, MacBook, Subaru, Toyota.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink at dinner. Marlo and Tully drink (and Marlo gets drunk) at a bar. A woman drinks, drives, and ends up in a car accident.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tully is a dark comedy starring Charlize Theron about the "supermom" illusion that casts modern mothers up against impossible standards. Expect frequent strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "retarded," etc.), nonsexual nudity (breastfeeding), one non-graphic sex scene that involves role-playing a man's fantasy, more graphic glimpses of people having sex on TV, and frank discussions between Marlo and Tully about their sexual histories. Adults drink (in one scene to excess), and a woman drives while under the influence and ends up in a car accident. The movie offers plenty of messages and issues to discuss with older teens about feminism, motherhood, work-life balance, and more; there are also clear themes of compassion and empathy. Due to the subject matter, it could be difficult viewing for women who've suffered from any form of postpartum depression. The film marks director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody's third collaboration, after Juno and Young Adult.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBINNA90 October 31, 2019

Beginning was inappropriate

I don't understand how a child can become sexually aroused by his mother brushing his skin.
And then alludes to mastaubation.

That caused me to not watch... Continue reading
Adult Written byOlesya February 23, 2019

Great movie to watch with father of your child

I must tell you guys it is real , it is real when you don’t have money and you husband is trying to make it way through , it’s hard and it may be something for... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byMr. Mongo December 29, 2020

really good but delves into some difficult topics

I really enjoyed this movie and kids can probably benifit from seeing it, by seeing the dark sides of parenthood.
Teen, 17 years old Written bySophia24 August 11, 2018

Insightful and Unique

This movie is about a mother struggling to take care of her kids. I thought it was extremely insightful and wildly different from anything else I'd ever se... Continue reading

What's the story?

TULLY, director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody's third dark comedy together, stars Charlize Theron as Marlo, a heavily pregnant mother of two juggling family life with her husband, Drew (Ron Livingston), in New York State. During a visit to Marlo's far wealthier brother Craig's (Mark Duplass) house for dinner, Craig announces that, for their baby gift, he and his wife would like to hire a night nurse so that Marlo, who experienced postpartum depression after her previous birth, can get some rest. Marlo initially nixes the idea. But after the baby is born, the day-to-day grind of feeding, changing, cleaning up, cooking, and dealing with her two older kids -- the younger of which has unspecified behavioral and anxiety issues -- leaves her utterly exhausted. So Marlo calls the night nurse, and, one night, young Tully (Mackenzie Davis), a charismatic and calming 20-something, shows up and works her magic. Marlo is completely re-energized by Tully's help, and soon the two women begin to bond in a life-changing way.

Is it any good?

Reitman and Cody's third film together is far more charming and honest than their first two movies; it shines a spotlight on how exhausting and isolating motherhood can sometimes be. Studies have shown that, even in double-income families, mothers do the lion's share of the work at home, a percentage that must be even higher right after a new baby joins the family, as is the case for Marlo and Drew. Livingston does a fine job portraying Drew, a sweet but slightly clueless guy who ends each night decompressing by putting on his headphones and playing a first-peron shooter video game. And Theron is painfully believable as a mom of three in survival mode, struggling under the weight of a child with special needs, an infant, and a husband who's great with the kids but not exactly pulling his weight. Enter the vibrant, zen Tully, and it's obvious why Marlo begins to rely on her for the co-parenting.

Davis is wonderful; she's a fabulous, evocative actor. The film is at its best when she and Theron are on screen together, passing the baby back and forth, having superficial -- and later, deep -- conversations, and eventually heading out on a somewhat ill-fated girls' night out. There's something magical about Tully, and some viewers may figure out just why that is earlier than others (no spoilers here!). Even though you might get the uncomfortable sense that Tully's overall message is that no mother can be truly happy without paid help, just wait. By the end, there's far more to the story, resulting in a moving exploration of how trying modern-day motherhood can be for many women.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Tully's messages regarding motherhood and the expectations that modern moms face. Do you think mothers face more criticism, guilt, and depression than fathers? If so, why? How are gender divisions of labor typically handled?

  • Is the movie making a statement about what makes a "good" or "bad" mother? Do you agree? Can you think of other movies about moms? How does this one compare?

  • The movie touches on class-based issues. What does Craig mean when he says that night nurses/nannies are a thing that "all" of his friends do. Why does he say he understands it might be a "bougie" thing to do, but it will still help Marlo postpartum? How can money/lack thereof affect sibling and other relationships?

  • Are there any role models in the movie? What are their character strengths? How does Tully show Marlo compassion and empathy?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love comedies

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

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