Tully

Tully

2000, NR, 102 min. Directed by Hilary Birmingham. Starring Catherine Kellner, Glenn Fitzgerald, Julianne Nicholson, Bob Burrus, Anson Mount.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Jan. 3, 2003

In a season packed to the gills with big, splashy seasonal offerings, it's easy for the little movies to slip through the cracks. This one probably will, but it shouldn't: Co-writer and director Hilary Birmingham's debut feature is a quiet gem. There are slight first-timer mistakes here -- a few instances of awkward framing, a scene that starts a beat too soon or too late -- but these are momentary distractions from Birmingham's thoughtful piece about a father, his two grown sons, and the imminent foreclosure of their Nebraska farm. There's more to the story than just that -- the oldest son, Tully Jr. (Mount), a small-town ladies' man, surprises himself by falling in love with Ella (Nicholson), who is just home from veterinary school, and there are a series of revelations about the boys' dead mother. Handled differently, these revelations might have felt sensational, but here, they are meted out in such a way that they simply feel like the skeletons in the closet that every family has. That sort of delicacy and authenticity runs throughout the film, a triumph of both the screenplay and the performances. The script, co-written with Matt Drake, has an unstudied feel to its depiction of small-town vernacular. It's difficult to describe -- it's simply that the people in Tully talk like real people do. It sounds easy, maybe even humdrum (who goes to the movies to see real people?) but the language is neither. It's quietly affecting, made all the more so by the superlative ensemble cast. Mount and Fitzgerald play the brothers with the right mixture of affection and loathing, and Nicholson is a smart, sensible tomboy, the kind of girl you'd expect to find across the street or in the neighborhood bar, knocking back a beer and riding her bicycle home afterwards. But among the host of understated, winning performances emerges one with an especial capacity to devastate. Bob Burrus plays Tully Sr., father of the two boys and owner of the beleaguered farm. His isn't a showy part. Tully Sr. doesn't speak much, mostly just tends to his fields and his animals and his sons' dinner. But Burrus has a face that does all the talking for him -- deep creases, sad eyes, and a gray hue that hangs over him like a rain cloud. It's a remarkable performance, and a study in how effectively a body can communicate.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Catherine Kellner Films
Restaurant
In this intelligent indie drama made in 1998, a trendy restaurant in Hoboken, J.T. McClure's, becomes a melting pot for a host of personal and ...

Marjorie Baumgarten, March 31, 2000

More by Kimberley Jones
Updated: Boil Water Notice Lifted for All Austin Water Customers
Updated: Boil Water Notice Lifted for All Austin Water Customers
Tap water now cleared for consumption

Feb. 22, 2021

Water Distribution Sites Open Around Austin
Water Distribution Sites Open Around Austin
Boil water notice, water use restrictions still in place

Feb. 21, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Tully, Hilary Birmingham, Catherine Kellner, Glenn Fitzgerald, Julianne Nicholson, Bob Burrus, Anson Mount

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle