Tully, a rare Hollywood movie about the realities of motherhood, is so real, it might make you think twice about your own future parenthood plans. Written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman (the team behind the 2007 hit Juno and 2011's Young Adult), Tully tells the story of Marlo, mother of three, who gives birth to her youngest and finds herself overwhelmed with a newborn, two young kids, and a husband. In other words, it's real AF, which is why it'd make so much sense if Tully is a true story.
In the movie, Marlo's brother, who can see that she's at the end of her rope, hires a nighttime nanny, Tully, to help her with the newborn. Through the relationship between Tully and Marlo, Tully explores how motherhood changes ones identity, and the hardship that comes with bringing new life into the world. Yet while Tully is certainly a raw portrait of motherhood, it isn't based on a real story — although some people might wish it was, including the writer herself.
Cody started working on the script for Tully right after giving birth to her third child. "All I really wanted at that time was for someone to swoop in, take care of me, and make me feel normal again. I just thought: What if a real person showed up to help me?" Cody said in an interview with Backstage. "It really was a form of therapy for me." The writer might not have lived the exact same experiences as Marlo, but the connection she feels towards her protagonist is undeniable. In fact, many of the smaller, everyday details of Marlo's life were taken from Cody's own experiences, or those she heard from other mothers. "The specificity of dropping your phone on a baby, though, or making frozen pizza because you're too tired to cook anything else for your kids — that's my life," Cody told Backstage.
For actor Charlize Theron, it was Cody's authentic voice that attracted her to the part. "There was something so authentically true about everything in Diablo's script. I couldn't find a note of something that wasn't true," Theron told Marie Claire. It was the opportunity to show motherhood in all its messy glory that really sealed the deal. "We often gloss over what mothers go through , and we don't necessarily always get the entire truth told about what it takes to be a mother and what it takes to go through every single moment of motherhood. The uneasy, unpretty stuff," Theron said.
Director Jason Reitman has also described the film as intensely personal and real, if not based on real events. Speaking at the film's New York City premiere, Reitman called Tully "semi-autobiographical," as reported by Deadline. "I feel like we're strangely writing this diary together," he added. At the event, the director said that he and Cody conducted a survey of parents they knew to collect more details and tidbits about parenthood to add to their own. "I'm amazed by the amount of parents who have dropped their phones on their baby's faces," he told the crowd, according to Bedford + Bowery. Reitman, who has a daughter, added that the film will hopefully bring to light the unsavory truths about new parenthood. "This is something that is very taboo. You do not talk about how tough parenting actually is, and how it makes you feel like you don't know what you're doing," he said.
Tully might not be based on a specific true story, but it's based on a universal truth of parenthood: it's hard. And, really, that's all we can ask for.