Director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody come together once more to bring audiences a riveting and true-to-life story of motherhood postpartum. These two brought us Juno in 2017 and Young Adultin 2011. In an interview with NPR, Theron recollects reading the script shortly after her second child “moved out” of her bedroom. This film is a brutally honest and unfiltered window into the trials and tribulations of a mother, Marlo (Theron), raising her third child.
The movie drops the audience into a typical day in the life of Marlo and her husband Drew, played by Ron Livingston. Marlo enters her son Jonah’s room to perform a daily ritual called the Wilbarger Protocol, in which a small surgical brush is run over the arms and legs of children suffering from sensory issues. In the next scene, Marlo asks Drew if their daughter Sarah was given her inhaler. It’s made evident that Marlo and Drew have quite a hectic household, requiring a strict schedule and attention to detail. There is no concrete verbal offering in the film that Marlo and Drew’s son has autism—very much in the style of Reitman and Cody—but telltale characteristics of autism abound through the film. Marlo continues to refer to her son as “quirky,” and it is Marlo’s attitude and tongue-in-cheek one liners that feel very much like Ellen Page in Juno, an endearing and relatable character.
In the scenes that follow, a very pregnant Marlo is offered a night nanny by her wealthy brother Craig, played by Mark Duplass. Soon after Mia is born—despite being hesitant to accept her brother’s gift—Marlo concedes, and Tully (Mackenzie Davis) in introduced as the odd and gifted night nanny who breathes new life into Marlo. Sleep ensues, showers are taken, dishes get done, meals get prepped and Marlo even begins exercising again. Ah, the joys of motherhood, right? Everything seems to go swimmingly—there is even one scene in which Tully offers to have an innocent threesomewith Marlo and Drew in an effort to reignite the flames of lust and love. And it works…which for most movie-goers, may seem a bit odd.
But, of course, all plots need a twist, and there is something a bit off about the heaven-sent Tully that will have you scratching your head throughout her appearances in the film. Reitman and Cody offer what feels like a very real and unpolished glimpse into the life of a motherbattling the highs and lows of everyday life with postpartum depression in tow. You’ll probably cry and laugh at the same time, but I’m not sure if everyone will walk away from the theatre with the message that was intended.