Editor’s note: contains movie spoilers

I really wanted to see Tully.

The first trailer I saw for the upcoming Charlize Theron movie, marketed as a raw and unfiltered look at mom life, made me tear up. The previews depict Theron’s character, Marlo, as an everyday exhausted mom—struggling to nurse a newborn, care for her older children and still spend time with her husband.

Enter Tully, a night nanny gifted to Marlo by a friend. Tully arrives saying she is there to help (every mom’s dream). She is happy to get up with baby at night and pamper Marlo by day. Now there’s a movie for moms, I thought. One that validates how hard the daily grind can really get. Buy me a ticket.

Unfortunately, I was mislead.

Because Tully features a plot twist. Not only does the film include a scene in which Tully gets intimate with Marlo’s husband (and under Marlo’s direction) it gets worse.

Near the film’s end, after Marlo winds up in the hospital following a car accident, a doctor diagnoses her with postpartum depression. And, it is revealed her beloved Tully is not real. She is a hallucination representing Marlo’s younger self. Yes, really.

Plot twists are fine in, say, an M. Night Shyamalan film or Fight Club, but this is a movie being marketed as mirroring a realistic motherhood experience. For months, the advertising has attracted moms seeking a dose of all the feels. In my mom groups, friends set up events to go see it. These are women interested in fun and a stress-free night out, some of whom are even struggling with actual postpartum depression.

As a mom who experienced severe anxiety during my first pregnancy and subsequent mild depression, I am disappointed. I feel betrayed by the makers of Tully. I feel slighted. For starters, Tully needs to come with a trigger warning. Had I gone to see the movie based on its advertising, I would have left shaken. I intentionally shy away from movies related to mental illness. Women with a history of postpartum mental health issues deserve at least a fair warning. Not to mention those currently suffering. Can you imagine going to the movie thinking it might help your PPD? Or leaving thinking a symptom of the disorder is imaginary friends? Yes, postpartum psychosis, a more serious disorder, can cause hallucinations, but Tully in no way depicts this disorder or even mentions it.

Diablo Cody, the writer and director of Tully, did not make a movie for mothers. She made a movie for awards, critical acclaim and in my opinion, attention. The irresponsible marketing will no doubt drive many moms to theaters for the film’s May 4 opening. Sadly, many will come out feeling cheated or worse.

The filmmakers may think they captured a true-to-life experience. But it isn’t mine.

You might also want to read: 

Postpartum Depression is a Liar and a Thief

The Call I Should Have Made About My Depression

New Mom Takes Her Own Life After Silent Battle With Postpartum Depression: Why All Of Us Must Share Her Friend’s Plea


Want more stories of love, family, and faith from the heart of every home, delivered straight to you? Sign up here! 

Sarah Whitman

Sarah Whitman is a writer and mother living in Tampa, Fl. As the religion columnist for the Tampa Bay Times, she covers a broad range of faith and spiritual-related topics. She also contributes parenting columns. She recently started a poetry page on Facebook and welcomes mothers to submit their writings to the site. Visit Mama Dickinson at www.facebook.com/mamadickinson. Visit 1mamadickinson on Instagram.