Directed by Jason Reitman, ‘Tully‘ is a thought-provoking comedy-drama movie. Tackling the intricate subjects of postpartum depression and the struggle with self-acceptance during motherhood, it revolves around Marlo, an exhausted mother who has recently given birth to her third child. As she tries her best to balance her career, her marriage, and her three kids with differing needs, she ends up feeling overwhelmed.
To help Marlo cope better, her brother hires a night nanny named Tully, who miraculously transforms her life. Both women start bonding deeply and though Marlo feels relieved, Tully’s presence starts making her long for her past carefree self, leading to complications. As the movie ends, it not just sensitizes the viewers about its relevant themes but also poses quite a few questions. So, let’s try to find out their answers and understand the surprising ending of ‘Tully,’ shall we? SPOILERS AHEAD.
Tully Plot Synopsis
‘Tully’ introduces the audience to the chaotic world of Marlo Moreau, who is soon expecting her third child with her husband Drew. She works as a PR professional and has a hard time managing things at home, mostly due to her spouse’s lack of help. Marlo and Drew’s second child Jonah has an undiagnosed developmental disorder that causes bouts of anxiety due to extreme receptivity to external stimuli. This causes problems for him at school and his mother struggles to take care of him actively because of her nearing due date.
Seeing Marlo’s misery, her affluent brother Craig offers to pay for a night nanny, who can help ease out things once the baby arrives. But she refuses to accept his help, as she does not wish to hire a stranger to handle her child. Soon, she gives birth to a daughter named Mia, and her responsibilities increase threefold. Moreover, Marlo starts losing her self-confidence and feels disconnected from herself and the baby. Already at the end of her rope due to exhaustion and sleep deprivation, she bursts out at Jonah’s school principal when she suggests moving him to another school.
Feeling defeated, Marlo contacts Tully, the night nanny Craig recommended, and asks her to join. She is a young 26-year-old who is unabashed about her promiscuity and prefers to live life to the fullest. Gradually, she and Marlo begin bonding and the former starts sharing all her woes with her. Not just that, Tully proves to be highly efficient at her job and helps Marlo get back on her feet and feel confident again. While Drew and Craig are pleasantly surprised at the changes in Marlo’s behavior, they are a bit curious as they have never met the night nanny in person.
Tully also encourages Marlo to reconnect with Drew as well as recognize her own desires from her young days. But one day, she suddenly arrives rather upset to work, and divulges that she has been having disagreements with her female roommate over bringing multiple men home. When Marlo asks her to move out, she indicates that she is also romantically involved with her roommate and thus, cannot leave. To get her mind off her worries, Tully suggests that she and Marlo go for a night out in the city.
Though hesitant, Marlo agrees and leaves with Tully, without informing Drew or anyone. The women drive to Marlo’s former neighborhood in Brooklyn and enjoy drinks at a local bar. However, Tully then unexpectedly informs her that she won’t be working for her anymore. This puzzles Marlo, as she has developed a deep attachment to her and is fully dependent on her for raising her kids. Tully then explains that her purpose of coming to their house is fulfilled, as she was only there to “bridge a gap.”
In denial, Marlo steals a bicycle and rides to her former apartment, where she lived with her ex-girlfriend. Tully follows her there and tells her to go back to her family, but soon her employer begins experiencing pain due to her breasts being full for the baby. As they are far away from home, Tully somehow manages to comfort Marlo and they begin driving home.
Unfortunately, both women feel drowsy due to exhaustion and Marlo ends up sleeping on the driver’s wheel. She is suddenly woken up by an approaching vehicle and maneuvers her car away, only to fall into the river along with Tully. There, Marlo envisions her as a mermaid who often comes in her dreams. The mermaid Tully helps her get out of the car and vanishes, while she passes out.
Tully Ending Explained: Was There Really a Night Nanny?
When Marlo wakes up in the hospital after her accident, Tully visits her to say goodbye. She states that they cannot be together anymore as Marlo should learn to let go of the past and focus on her secure present with her husband and children. Tully explains to Marlo that she needs to take control of her life once again and that she would do well without her. Elsewhere, the hospital’s psychiatrist tells Drew that his wife’s accident was caused due to extreme exhaustion and sleep deprivation.
When Drew goes to fill up some forms for insurance, it dawns upon him that Tully is actually Marlo’s maiden surname. Piecing everything together, it is revealed that the night nanny AKA Tully was just a figment of Marlo’s imagination, that was created to comfort her from her troubled mental state. After she delivered Jonah, she suffered from postpartum depression, which most likely crept up again after Mia’s birth. When Marlo began feeling overwhelmed due to her overloaded schedule, she began imagining Tully, who soon became a savior for her.
While Drew is outside the room, his wife, on the other hand, confirms that Tully is the embodiment of her 26-year-old self. She realizes that she needs to stop yearning for the past and make amends with her current phase of life. Thus, she assures Tully that everything will be fine when she grows older and bids her a final farewell. With this, Marlo lets go of the fictitious night nanny, who serves as an emotional crutch for her till that moment.
Do Marlo and Drew Remain Together?
Over the years, Marlo and Drew’s marriage suffers from monotony and the responsibilities of two children. When they have an unexpected third pregnancy, the distance between them increases, as they struggle to secure finances for the baby. Furthermore, given Marlo’s deteriorating mental health, she stops feeling energetic enough to spend time with her husband, let alone establish an intimate relationship with him.
Meanwhile, Drew silently wishes to get close to Marlo again, but hesitates to tell her so due to their growing workloads. Not just that, as he constantly goes away on work trips, his wife gets irked with him for not helping out at home. In addition, she feels sexually unsatisfied and resorts to watching erotica to keep herself occupied. After Mia is born, Marlo gets even more exhausted and barely has any time to even speak to Drew, thus widening the gap between them. However, things change for the better when Tully arrives and takes Mia’s responsibility.
Slowly, Marlo starts getting back to her usual self and becomes more participative with the family. One day, she also shares with Tully about her and Drew’s lack of intimacy. Tully suggests that they act out one of his sexual fantasies, and she dresses up like a diner waitress in a costume Marlo had bought. She then accompanies her to the bedroom and initiates a threesome with Drew and Marlo. He is rather taken aback at this, yet is happy to connect with his wife again.
Later, when it is revealed that Tully was Marlo’s imagination, it is proven that the latter was the one who had seduced Drew to re-establish intimacy between them. He further realizes the terrible ordeal his wife has been going through mentally and apologizes to her for being an absent spouse. He tells her that he loves her and promises to work on their marriage with her.
After a few days when Marlo returns home, Drew starts taking small initiatives to help with the kids and show his appreciation for his wife. Thus, they manage to save their marriage from breaking and give it another chance. On top of that, even Marlo and Jonah’s equation improves.
Read More: Is Tully Based on a True Story?