The main event here is Charlize Theron's performance. She gained and lost significant amounts of weight for the role, but the sheer amount of mental exhaustion coming off of her is what really sells it. I've never seen any piece of media capture the descent into survival mode and the physical strain of newborn care the way that this film does. There's a wonderful montage that really hammers home the repetitiveness, the monotony, and the feelings of utter defeat that can result. And when the film is in this gear, it's excellent. All of Cody's little observations about motherhood, microaggressions, and the impossible standards of modern parenting are great. So it's a shame that the larger story about Marlo's friendship with Tully, and her reckoning with her past, falls so very, very flat.
Tully is the bestie version of the manic-pixie dreamgirl, a Millennial free spirit with a head full of interesting facts. And it's only because the eminently lovable Mackenzie Davis plays her that I found her tolerable. I cottoned on to Tully's secret fairly early on in the film, which I don't think hurts the experience of watching it. However, the film really bungles the reveals and the denouement, making the whole premise of the film come off is as ill-considered. "Tully" would be a much better film if it had committed to being about Marlo's struggles without trying to tie them to this broader crisis about her identity and psychological state. I still love the first three-quarters of the film, and this is the best thing I've seen from Reitman and Cody in a while, but its flaws left me lukewarm on "Tully."
Now on to "A Quiet Place," which I debated over writing a review for, as I don't have too much to say about it. It's an interesting little creature feature, firmly in the category of a good film, but not a great film. It's built entirely around a couple of good gimmicks and strong worldbuilding. John Krasinski directs and stars as the patriarch of a family living in the aftermath of human society's destruction by sound-sensitive monsters. Emily Blunt plays his wife, and his deaf preteen daughter and younger son are played by Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe respectively.
How do you live day to day without being able to make a sound? Anything above a whisper attracts the monsters, so the family has to soundproof every aspect of their lives, from communicating through sign language, to muffling footsteps with trails of sand on walkways, to banishing all the dishes. It's a lot of fun seeing all the different ways they've adapted, and clearly a lot of thought went into all the changes. The family has been mostly successful at keeping the monsters away from their isolated farm, but there are the inevitable gut-wrenching slip-ups and Blunt's character is pregnant, putting all of them in more danger. The family dynamics are handled very well, with tensions between the father and daughter, and past tragedies hanging over everyone's heads.
The usual action and suspense sequences take over in the second half of the film. These are inventive and enjoyable, especially the deft use of the sound design to escalate the tension. However, the funhouse scares are pretty familiar, and the velociraptor-like creatures aren't all that exciting. It's the performances that do much of the heavy lifting, and fortunately Blunt and Millicent Simmonds are excellent at channeling terror and fright. "A Quiet Place" is pretty adept at being a delivery system for thrills, and the family drama aspects are very satisfying. However, the way the universe is set up, I don't think that it fulfilled the potential of the premise. I was a little disappointed at how simple some of the resolutions were, and some of the opportunities not taken. I'm grateful that the movie offers a fairly unique cinematic experience, but I can't shake the feeling that this could have really been something special in other hands.