It’s been more than 10 years since Juno blew the roof off the indie game, catapulting screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman into the mainstream. Since then, the team has collaborated on Jennifer’s Body in 2009 (where Reitman acted as producer) and Young Adult in 2011. All three of these films were notable for their quippy dialogue and three-dimensional female characters. Now, seven years later, it appears the duo is back for yet another bitingly honest take on womanhood.
Tully, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and boasts one of the most striking posters in recent memory, centers on beleaguered mother Marlo (frequent Cody-Reitman collaborator and producer Charlize Theron). Overworked and underappreciated, the stay-at-home mom is feeling the maternal burnout when the titular Tully (Mackenzie Davis) arrives on the scene. With the help of her idealistic new nanny, Marlo begins a cathartic journey of self-discovery that, in true Cody fashion, is equal parts tenderness and acerbity.
The film’s latest trailer perfectly encapsulates that bittersweet balance, shifting seamlessly between dry humor and warmth. The preview takes viewers through Marlo’s life as an exhausted mother of three, bluntly showing everything from spilt breastmilk to sagging skin. When Tully shows up, it’s with Mary Poppins–esque timeliness. Marlo is at a breaking point, and Tully pulls her back from the edge. One exchange in the trailer encapsulates the film’s drama-comedy balance:
“You’re empty,” Tully notes to a breastfeeding Marlo.
“Yeah,” Marlo sighs, gazing hollowly into the distance.
Tully corrects herself after an awkward beat. “No, you’re empty on this side,” she amends, referring to Marlo’s milk.
As the trailer progresses, the empathetic bond forming between Marlo and Tully clashes with Marlo’s existential dread. Delightfully childish scenes and sweet family moments punctuate the preview as Tully and Marlo learn more from each other. For a scant two minutes, the entire thing is awash in female compassion. This is in part due to soft visuals from cinematographer Eric Steelberg (500 Days of Summer) and Diablo Cody’s frank dialogue. “We might look like we’re all better,” Marlo says of women, “but if you look close, we’re covered in concealer.”
We’re still waiting to see better stories by and about women consistently on screen. If this latest trailer is any indication, Tully offers a groundbreaking, frank representation of ambivalent motherhood. It’s still taboo to see imperfect mothers in fiction, but if anybody has made a career on artfully breaking taboos, it’s Diablo Cody.
This latest project from Cody, Reitman, and Theron looks every bit as real as fans have come to expect. Now all we have to do is grab some tissues and wait for the April 20 premiere.