When my daughter was about nine months old I offered to be a friend’s birthing partner.
My own labour was so long ago, I thought. I’ve forgotten it. I’ll be fine.
But the minute I stepped foot in the birthing centre I knew it was too soon. The scent of hospital grade disinfectant and the beeping sound of a heart monitor was unsettling enough, that I immediately knew that being physically present at this birth, would be overwhelming.
A mirror of motherhood: the good, the bad and the ugly
Tully, the new film by Jason Reitman is a bit like that experience. Charlize Theron manages to embody every aching physical symptom from being very pregnant, to the bloated, painful aftermath of childbirth.
For a few moments her washed out, vacant stare seems too comical to truly represent the bone crushing reality of sleep deprivation. But then it hits you - that’s exactly what it’s like.
Marlo (Charlize Theron) is having her third child. Before the baby is due her rich brother offers to pay for a “night nanny”. While Marlo initially resists, after a series of sleepless nights and dealing with her son Jonah’s special needs, she concedes it’s all too much and calls the night nanny.
What ensues is a wonderful exploration of what can happen when a mother is properly supported. Tully, the night nanny, is free spirited, spiritual and nurturing. The friendship between Tully and Marlo grows as Marlo learns to accept Tully’s help and everything starts to improve.
A reminder of those bittersweet early weeks as a new mum
At least, that’s what seems to be happening. As the film goes on, it becomes clear that there's something more concerning going on with Tully.
For parents, watching this film is a bittersweet mixture of remembering how hard, and yet how precious those early weeks are.
It’s funny, touching and brutal in its portrayal of what it’s like to be a mother of young children, and particularly of a new baby.
It clearly conveys that being a parent to a new baby is hard. Many women find it difficult to ask for help, difficult to accept help, and even more are not even offered help.
But ultimately, as this film shows, most of us need it, no matter what.
Who should watch this film?
I really enjoyed this film, and I’m still thinking about it the day after I saw it, but then, my youngest is now four years old.
I'm concerned about how women who are very much in the thick of things will react to watching something that's so close to home. It may be too close for comfort!
And if you're pregnant for the first, second, or third time and feeling overwhelmed, well, watch it with care and keep in mind how important it is to ask for help.
If you, or anyone you know needs help, you can call the PANDA National Helpline (Mon to Fri, 9am - 7.30pm AEST) on 1300 726 306.
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