Marlo (Charlize Theron) is mad at herself for not fulfilling her self-assigned role of supermom. There is the pressure of dealing with the changes in her eight-year-old daughter Sarah (Lia Frankland) and doing the right thing for five-year-old Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica), who has trouble managing his emotions. Although Marlo loves her husband Drew (Ron Livingston), he does not offer her much assistance; he helps with the kids' homework but then he retreats to his bed to play video games.

After delivering her third child, whom they name Mia, Marlo hits a wall of exhaustion. In a collage of scenes, we see her rising to nurse the baby, changing diapers, going back to bed, only to rise again when the baby cries. Since she has a history of postpartum depression after Jonah's birth, her wealthy older brother (Mark Duplass) decides she needs more help. He offers to pay for her to have a "night nanny" who will cover the childcare duties during the night, only waking Marlo to nurse.

Tully (Mackenzie Davis) is a caring, compassionate, and empathetic young woman who announces to her new client that she plans to be of service to both mother and baby. She encourages Marlo to give Mia a kiss before she heads off to bed each night, reminding her that the baby will grow a little each night "and so will we." One morning Marlo discovers that what she describes as "eight years of filth" have been chiseled off the kitchen floor. Tully even bakes cupcakes for Jonah to take to his classmates.

When this Mary Poppins-like liberator asks Marlo to stop being so self-conscious in her presence, the middle-aged mom responds that she is not used to having people do things for her. The younger woman says she can't fix the part — helping with the baby — without treating the whole. And there is a lot going on in Marlo's life. She is angry at the school administrator for describing Jonah as "quirky" and then suggesting that he needs a full-time professional aide to address his special needs and that he is not a "good fit" for their school. Another of Tully's many gifts is helping Marlo jump-start her sexual relationship with Drew.

Tully is a spiritually-rich dramady directed by Jason Reitman (Up in the Air, Juno) with an inventive screenplay by Diablo Cody (Juno). The dialogue rings true to our times and is often very funny. (After Tully comes up with some interesting observations, Marlo tells her "You are like 'Fun Facts for Unpopular Fourth Graders' ").

This extraordinary film starts out as a critique of the supermom cultural shibboleth and then shifts gears and moves into the challenge of self-care that many women, not just those who are mothers, experience. When Tully reveals that she, too, needs healing, Marlo is blunt: "Girls don't heal. If you look closely, we're covered in concealer."

But Rietman and Cody don't leave this story there. They also explore the exhilarations of giving birth to something new. And this in turn involves a revived acceptance of "the sameness" of everyday life and the love that keeps us enlightened and renewed by the ordinary.

Instead of just concluding this review with our admiration for the two astonishing performances by Charlize Theron and Mackenzie Davis, we have decided to share with you some meditations and songs we discovered in a wonderful resource on women's spirituality, Midwives of an Unnamed Future by Mary Ruth Broz and Barbara Flynn. We encourage you to use these probes to enhance your appreciation of the diverse themes of the dramady.

Giving Birth

"You will know when it is time to bring to birth
the new creation. The signs will be all around you,
urging, insisting: Now is the time.
You have to know just when to bear down
And concentrate on one thing only.
It takes labor, hard, hard labor
To bring to birth something new."
- from "A Psalm for Midwives" by Miriam Theresa Winter

As you watch the movie Tully unfold, see yourself as a person like Marlo, who is standing at a threshold. What are the signs that it is time for some "hard labor" for you? How will you reconnect with your primal self, confront your fears and disappointments, and face the detritus that has accumulated in your home and around your heart, bringing you to a place of depression and physical exhaustion?

Walking with Women

As you witness the inspiring changes that Tully brings forth in Marlo, bathe yourself in "May You Walk," a song by Marsie Silvestro from her On the Other Side album:

"May you walk in the ways of the women who walked before you.
And may you hear their voices rise — like the wind that gently shakes you.

"And know that you are not alone — for we all go with each other.
Yes, know that you are not alone — as you seek with courage your path.

"And may you walk in the ways of women who went before you.
And may you feel their laboring hands working to clear the roads you take.

"So know that you are not alone — for we all go with each other.
Yes, know that you are not alone — as your tears push through the pain.

"And may you walk in the ways of women who went before you.
And may you see that like the rain — they will send deep healing down.

"So know that you are not alone — for we all go with each other.
Yes, know that you are not alone — for your sisters by your side.

"As you walk in the ways of the women who want before you
With the women who are before you — May You Walk."

Simple Things

Pay close attention to the ways Marlo and Tully look for light and explore the dreams resting deep in their souls. These themes are also expressed in the song "Low to the Ground" by Libby Roderick from her Thinking Like a Mountain album:

"We stand on the edge of a cliff
In the deepest night I've ever seen
People looking for light
People who cherish a dream.
But the light's shining out from our eyes
And the dream's resting deep in our souls
It's magic we need to keep us from falling
It's magic we already know.

It's music that keeps us alive
It's dancing that sets our hearts free
It's children remember the laughter in life
It's animals teach us to see.
Stay low to the ground
Live close to the earth
Don't stray very far from your soul
It's simple things show us the reason we're here
And it's simple things keeping us whole.

In Praise of Sameness

As Roderick points out in this song, the way back to our gleaming soul is by attending to the simple routines and chores which keep us whole. In the last scene, Drew joins Marlo washing dishes at the sink in the kitchen and we remembered Thomas Moore's words in Care of the Soul:

"The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest. For example, I can't explain it, but I enjoy doing dishes. I've had an automatic dishwasher in my home for over a year, and I have never used it. What appeals to me as I think about it is the reverie induced by going through the ritual of washing, rinsing, and drying."

A Closing Prayer by Mary Ruth Broz

"O Spirit of Life,
You call us to be more
Than we can ask or even imagine.
Help us to uncover
The rich inner life that is ours.
Surprise us with hidden treasures
We never knew we had.
Give us the courage to uncover
A mystic and prophet
Within ourselves
And show us the way
To bring their wisdom with us
As we struggle to leave This world a better place."