Journal Mental Health/Wellness

Postpartum Psychosis Is No Joke: Why I Won’t Be Seeing the Movie “Tully”

Written by Sarah Whitman

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.

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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

 

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About the author

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.