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In celebration of Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman's 'Tully', here’s a ranking of ten other films that get real about motherhood.

Tully’s struggle: Ten emotive movies that get real about motherhood

With the third glorious collaboration between writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman comes Tully – a film about motherhood that hits all the right notes. The story follows Marlo (Charlize Theron) – a mother of three including a newborn who is gifted a night nanny by her brother.

Though she’s hesitant at first (“it’s like a Lifetime Movie where the nanny tries to kill the family”), Marlo comes to form a unique bond with the thoughtful, surprising, and sometimes challenging young nanny named Tully (Mackenzie Davis).

In celebration of Tully, here’s a ranking of ten other films that get real about motherhood.

Mommy (2014)

In Xavier Dolan’s cutting and heartfelt movie about what happens when a woman is thrown into single-parenthood without a choice in the matter, a widower named Die (Anne Dorval) struggles raising her violent son alone, but finds new hope when a mysterious neighbor inserts herself into their household.

The Babadook (2014)

This unique and truly terrifying film by Jennifer Kent explores the struggles of a newly widowed mother as she comes to terms with raising her son alone. Told through the tropes of the horror genre, the sinister children’s book character stands as a metaphor for the grief, shame, and mental struggle that can turn a single parent into a real-life monster.

The Second Mother (2015)

In this deeply moving class-conflict dramedy from writer-director Anna Muylaert (Smoke Gets in Your Eyes), the sacrifices many mothers make are explored via the character Val (Regina Casé) who works as a live-in housekeeper. When her estranged daughter suddenly appears, the unspoken class barriers that exist within the home she works in are thrown into disarray.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

Lynne Ramsay’s take on the same name novel controversially explores the struggles of an ambivalent mom who finds difficulty connecting with her autistic son and her life following the tragic incident that she may or may not have played a significant part in.

Juno (2007)

In one of the earlier collaborations between Cody & Reitman, Juno tackles the difficult topics of adoption and teen pregnancy with lightness and warmth, following the journey of a young pregnant woman named Juno (Ellen Page) as she deals with an unplanned pregnancy. It’s a sweet, heartwarming, and startlingly honest portrayal of the difficulties of what it’s like to give a child up for adoption.

Mask (1985)

Mask is a 1985 American biographical drama film directed by Peter Bogdanovich (Paper Moon), starring Sam Elliott (The Hero), Eric Stoltz (Pulp Fiction), and Cher (Moonstruck) as a bohemian biker mom who will stop at nothing to build a normal life for her son under the difficult circumstances he has to face.

As The Hollywood Reporter put it, “If you’re a teenage boy suffering from a rare medical condition that leaves you horribly disfigured and fated for an early death, you want Cher for a mother.”

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)

Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream) shines in one of Martin Scorsese’s few female-led films about a newly widowed mother who relocates from New Mexico to California along with her preteen son Tommy (Alfred Lutter) with a determination to start a new life as a singer.

Grey Gardens (1975)

On the lighter side of parental struggles, this cult documentary follows a mother and daughter – both named Edith Beale and the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy respectively – as they live their eccentric lives in a filthy, decaying mansion in East Hampton. The intimate relationship of Big Edie and Little Edie is explored with curiosity and joy, providing more than a few laugh out loud moments.

All About My Mother (1999)

Auteur Pedro Almodovar’s Oscar-winning dramedy centers on Manuela (Cecilia Roth) as she comes to terms with the death of her son Esteban (Eloy Azorín). Besides herself with grief, she decides to return to Barcelona to tell the boy’s transgender father Lola (Toni Cantó) about the death of the son he never knew he had.

Bonus film: Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Motherhood can be a daunting and scary time in a woman’s life, particularly when you’ve been inseminated by the spawn of the antichrist. Roman Polanski’s big-screen adaptation of Rosemary’s Baby was and still is one of the most horrifying portrayals of pregnancy and childbirth the world has ever seen.

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  • The film strikes that balance between comedy and the seriousness of postpartum depression, but writing that, what was that like? Did you find yourself having to pull back if it got too dark? Or if things became too comedic?

    January 25, 2020

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