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1 rating: 5.0
A movie directed by Hilary Birmingham

Hilary Birmingham's heartfelt directorial debut, set over the course of one sweltering Nebraskan summer, tells the redemptive tale of a family that is coming apart at the seams. Tully Coates, Jr. (Anson Mount), a small-town playboy, lives on a sprawling … see full wiki

Release Date: 2002
MPAA Rating: Unrated
1 review about Tully

Bucolic with beauty and secrets

  • Jul 11, 2007
Pros: Acting, storyline, pretty much everything that makes movies important

Cons: Maybe not long enough

The Bottom Line: I have rarely seen such a simple film be so richly and softly complex.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

As far as fibbing goes, the only thing worse than being caught in a lie is discovering that those lied to had discovered the truth already and just never said anything about it.

Tully is a difficult movie to summarize because while not much seems to happen, many deep and lasting things happen, and they are the reason to watch this remarkable sleeper of a film. It covers about six weeks in the lives of three men on a farm in some place other than Kansas (make of that what you will): Tully Coates Jr. (Anson Mount), his brother Earl (Glenn Fitzgerald) and their father Tully Sr. (Bob Burrus). The relationship between the two Tullys is tense mainly because the comely younger Tully is a lady’s man and as much of a womanizer as you can get in a small farming town. There is far less tension between the elder Tully and Earl, quiet and painfully shy. The main female is Ella (Julianne Nicholson) who has an easy way among all the Coateses. She is as much tom-boy as girl. This is a quick thumbnail of the principles. If I go into much detail here, I will give far too much away.

The film is slow but not at all in a bad way. Life on a farm that doesn’t require constant tending is going to be slow and this allows for large amounts of character inspection. Likewise the plot is not complicated. The underlying story leads to some complexity towards the end, but until that point it seems like any family made of taciturn men who keep their rage at each other just below the surface and allow it to peak from time to time. There are no long arguments, just brief eruptions and quick departures. In vast farm country there are plenty of places to be alone.

The acting is superior. Even the minor characters are solid. At first it is difficult to like the Coateses because of the tension that surrounds them, but that changes as you begin to know them more and more. Ironically, I sense that the comfort the actors seemed to have together made the film that much smoother. From a purely story sense, the freckled Ms. Nicholson is both fulcrum to the story as she is a type of mother-confessor. Director Hilary Birmingham never loses sight of the bucolic nature of her story nor the quiet intensity of the characters in it.

This is one of the very few times where I have not done a complete analysis of the story because the movie is too subtle and plot spoilers would truly ruin the experience. The best thing I can compare it to is In the Bedroom where all the acting is solid but most of the brilliance is below the surface. Tully is significantly less violent but the structure of the films and the notion of subterranean emotions barely held in check because the society demands it are what make the movie so surprisingly entertaining.

I recommend this highly.


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