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  • Tully
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Tully
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
Based on my memory of reviews when this film was first released, I expected a kind of comedy-drama-romance, which it is not. It can best be described as a family melodrama, set on a small farm in Nebraska (actually shot in the rural community of Ft. Calhoun, near Omaha). The elements are somewhat familiar: an older man raising two sons, of somewhat different temperaments, all haunted by the memory of a mother who had aspirations beyond the narrow confines of the farm (she names a horse Jackie, after Jackie Kennedy, because she "liked famous people"). During a summer, as the boys have grown into young men, the truth of their mother's past begins to make itself known, and all are deeply affected.
The story has a leisurely pace as it unfolds, and for a time it seems to be about the growing attraction between womanizer Tully and Ella, a college-educated friend of his younger brother. But this becomes a thread in the larger story of a family's secrets and loyalties surfacing after years of silence and half-truths. For its length, it's a small film, and its strength is not in big effects, sex and nudity, or heavy plotting. Instead there are well-acted scenes between people in muted conflict who struggle with emotions and the difficulty of trusting others with the truth about themselves. This will not be everyone's idea of entertainment, but as indie movies go, I found that it rewarded my patience.
The cinematography captures the deep greens of mid-summer, and scenes are often shot in early morning or late afternoon, so the golden, glancing sunlight lights characters with a rich glow and casts cool shadows. Night scenes are played against a textured fabric of insect sounds. Always the camera captures the isolation and solitude of country living.
Perhaps the only real ring of inaccuracy in the film is the fact that so little of the dawn-to-dusk work of actual farming is reflected in the lives of the characters. These boys have an awful lot of time on their hands; the farm seems to take care of itself. The film is based on a story by writer Tom McNeal, whose novel "Goodnight, Nebraska" has similar characters (a young couple), a rural small town setting, and touches on similar themes. For fans of the film, I recommend McNeal's book.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Tully (Anson Mount) and his brother Earl (Glenn Fitzgerald) live and work on their family farm with their Father (Bob Burrus), their Mother having died when the boys were children. While Tully is an outgoing, sometimes overbearing, ladies' man, Earl is introverted, shy and often the object of his brother's teasing. When their Father receives a foreclosure notice from a collection agency over money that he didn't know that he owed, a series of events are set into motion that change the relationship between Father and sons and bring the family's past into the forefront of their present lives. The tension created by old secrets and new problems causes Tully to abandon his womanizing ways and puerile demeanor and seek the friendship of Ella (Julianne Nicholson), a young woman who is a good friend of Earl's. Ella's friends fear for her feelings when she becomes friendly with Tully, and Tully himself tries to drive Ella away when he realizes that he has strong feelings for her at the same time he must deal with family crises. But Ella and Tully fall in love in spite of these things and cope together when an unexpected tragedy brings an end to the family's crisis.
"Tully"'s quiet tone and measured pace beautifully reflect the midwestern landscape which is not only the setting for this film, but often seems to be a character in it as well. It would be accurate to say that the pace of this film is slow. But its leisurely pace is deliberately and meticulously crafted, and it never drags or bores. The family crises in "Tully" could easily be construed as the stuff of melodramas, but there isn't a bit of melodrama in this film. The characters seem so real that you might think to reach out and touch them, and they cope with revelations that strike at the heart of their self-images the way that level-headed people do: Mostly privately, quietly and effectively. I cannot praise director Hilary Birmingham, cinematographer John Foster, and the principal actors enough for being able to sustain "Tully"'s even, quiet lyricism throughout the film. Impeccable pacing, exquisite cinematography, an excellent script, and great understated performances, so rarely seen together, combine to make "Tully" a true gem of a film. I expected this to be a decent midwestern drama, which inspires limited enthusiasm. But it turned out to be one of the best films of 2002. (It was actually made in 2000.) "Tully" isn't a movie for those who like their films frenetically-paced, but it is a beautiful film with astonishingly good and touchingly subdued performances. I look forward to future projects from director Hilary Birmingham and this excellent cast.
Note: On the VHS version of this film, there is a short film entitled "The Third Date" that precedes the main feature. It takes place on Coney Island, features a cameo appearance by Sandra Bernhard and has no relation to "Tully". Don't think that you have the wrong tape if, at first, you see "The Third Date".
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2003
I almost missed this film until my friend told me it was his favorite movie of that year. I ran out to see it and it is a gem! Art-film from beginning to end, this soft-spoken story comes alive and envelopes you in the realities of small town life. There are no "villians" or "Heroes" and the story has nowhere to go other than to chronical the lives of these people for a short time. It is so easy to care for these people.
Afterwards, I took another friend to go see it as an "emergency movie" to a tiny little theater in Berkley (the only place that was still showing it, 48 miles away). After the film he stood up and said "That was pure quality."
I agree.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2003
Hilary Birmingham makes a stirring directorial debut in this realistic, family drama, which I rank, next to Billy Elliot and In the Bedroom, as among the best. The characters are both believable and three-dimensional as they try to work through their tremendous character flaws to find what they are each searching for; and down to the last line Birmingham displays an amazing understanding of human nature. It won the Audience Award for Best Director and Critics Award at the 2000 Los Angeles Film Festival, Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2000 Newport International Film Festival, and Audience Award for Best Feature at the 2000 Gen Art Film Festival. Like the films I compared it to, Tully takes a few hours to sink in before you realize how deeply moving it is, but this long overdue release belongs in every great film library.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2004
Sometimes movie titles (Tully) are weaker than the movies. This story line of mid-western farm people from a vague time period, I'm guessing the late 1980's or mid-90's, is well developed. We care about young stud Tully,his dorky brother, and weather beaten dad. The farm is in danger from a mysterious debt and Tully is gradually falling for the freckled good-girl neighbor back from vet school. These are people that work. How many movies are about real people that work? No detectives or super-models here, no; these are rural folks that honky-tonk on a Saturday night and swim in the local water hole with their girlfriends, or make love down a lonely road on top of the hood of a 82 Cadillac. I cared about the characters.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 24, 2003
Tully is the kind of small film that makes it worth slogging through all the other small films. The story takes place in the vast flatness of the Midwest, but this one actually feels true to that landscape, not just an excuse for small-town existential crisis. Cunningly acted, powerfully written, and full of the kinds of genuine character epiphanies that make us want to watch movies in the first place, Tully represents the beginning of a great career for its young director, Hilary Birmingham.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2003
great film. acting is understated, natural and wonderful. story is elegant, tragic, uplifting.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2003
This tale of two brothers and their father on a farm in the summer is deceptively simple. Their relationships with each other and others in the small town work themselves out as they should, but with a number of surprises along the way. Cast with total unknowns, each says far more with a facial expression or shoulder than with words. I cared about these people and their lives and I think you would too. Enjoy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The slow pacing is a good match for the rural, quiet lifestyle. Characters are complex, interesting, likeable and believable. Especially enjoyed Julianne Nicholson's portrayal of Ella Smalley, a kind, honest young woman bringing some life to the lonely family dynamic of a single father raising two sons. The theme is bittersweet with a touch of hopefullness. Recommended.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2003
The acting in this movie is excellent. Understated but poignant. It is one of those "first" movies that reveal the exceptional talent of the director. Julianne Nicholson and Anson Mount give particularly heartfelt performances. It is about feelings that lie below the surface in relationships. It is about people learning and growing. It is slow paced but so is the life it depicts. But when the secrets start to unravel you feel a rush of emotion along with the characters.
Don't let this small movie get lost in the shuffle. Watch it and cherish its beautiful simplicity.
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