Screenwriter Diablo Cody (“Juno”) and Oscar nominated director Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”) have clearly not been wasting away around the pool in the last few years.

“Tully” is here, and despite some confusing moments and a few problems, it delivers a story with something for everyone, but mostly for women who have long been impatient with the candy coated films about the joys of young motherhood.

There is joy here, and a dose of fantasy that will be left up to you to unravel, but for half of the 94 minutes, there is a clear, stark, cold water bath in the realities of midlife motherhood. And then there is Tully. Wait for her, she’s coming.

It all starts with Marlo’s dream of a mermaid. Say what?

Marlo, (a stunning Charlize Theron, saddled with the 50 pounds she gained for the role) is a suburban mom with two children already, Jonah, (Asher Miles Fallica) a sweet but troublesome autistic boy, whose problems, of course, tend to devour huge portions of Marlo’s day. She draws some comfort from her little girl Sarah (Lia Frankland) who, happily, like the older daughter (Maddie Dixon-Poirier) is mature beyond her years.

At the very start the school is asking Marlo to consider a different school for Jonah.

“He’s getting to be a bit wired,” they say.

“He’s not a ukulele,” Marlo snaps.

She doesn’t need any of this of course. Marlo doesn’t need most of what’s going to come at her in the next month.

Then we meet Drew, (Ron Livingston) Marlo’s regular guy hubby, who has a job that takes him away from time to time. In a few minutes you may decide she doesn’t need him either. He seems nice, but it’s clear from the start, Marlo needs more than nice. Marlo needs a plumber.

When Drew is home from work he likes to hide upstairs in the bedroom after dinner and play video games. I think he helps with the dishes and gives his sweaty, beleaguered mate sweet hugs and comforting asides. In other words, he doesn’t do windows.

So begins an urban nightmare, featuring a mother whose string has been pulled out to its limits, who stumbles around each day through a terrain full of plastic toys, unmade beds and unread books. She was once young and full of dreams that have turned muddy and complex.

But wait. Something’s coming, something called Tully.

Marlo’s rich brother (Mark Duplass) gives her a much needed gift, he signs her up for a fully paid “Night Nanny” service. This provides a “baby barista” of sorts, who comes in after the dishes are done and takes over, allowing the beleaguered mother to take several deep breaths, a warm bath perhaps and sleep through the night. Does such a service truly exist? Google it, and let me know.

This magical night nurse will be Tully, (a wonderful Mackenzie Davis) a dream child who appears to have been torn loose from the age of Aquarius. Tully pops in one evening, from a day where the smoke of battle is barely clearing, and chirps, “I’m here to take care you, it’s all going to be okay.” These are magic words to Marlo, and she buys it outright.

In the next few days she will awaken from blissful sleep to find the house clean, cupcakes baked, stove wiped down and the sun shining.

Before long, the bond grows stronger. Tully’s charm is irresistible, like warm tea full of honey.

In days to come, they grow closer; and we watch Marlo open up as Tully lures her into a night out at a rock club. What’s going on here? Does something evil this way come? Will there be a boiled rabbit?

No. There is magic here of a kind, but not black.

But why do the children not ask of Tully? They never see her, they’re asleep when she arrives, she’s gone when they awake. And why does Drew never come down at night to check her out?

A bit of sexual fantasy laced with humor pops up when Marlo awakens Drew for a bit of almost forgotten sex, and there is Tully on the edge of the bed.

The mermaid will reappear in a dark river moment that both frightens and enlightens.

I liked Cody’s story and loved her people. She’s a painter of real women and has no mercy on the men who walk through them without really seeing who they are.

Theron is as always, a multi faceted film actress (who can forget her in “Monster”?)

So who is this mysterious Tully? It’s pretty obvious that she’s the rising of one woman’s alter ego, fully formed and come-a-calling like a summer’s breeze ruffling the curtains in one woman’s life.

J.P. Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and film actor.

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