Screened as part of NZIFF 2001

The Truth about Tully 2000

What Happened to Tully?

Directed by Hilary Birmingham

USA In English
105 minutes 35mm

Production Co

Telltale Films


Annie Sundberg
Hilary Birmingham


Hilary Birmingham
Matt Drake. Based on the short story by Tom McNeal


John Foster


Affonso Gonçalves

Production Designer

Mark White

Costume Designer

Christine Vollmer


Brad Bergbom


Marcelo Zarvos


Anson Mount (Tully Coates Jr)
Julianne Nicholson (Ella Smalley)
Glenn Fitzgerald (Earl Coates)
Catherine Kellner (April Reece)
Bob Burrus (Tully Coates Sr)
Natalie Canerday (Claire)
John Diehl (Mal "Mac" MacAvoy)
V. Craig Heidenreich (Burt Hodges)


Set on verdant farmland under the wide open skies of Nebraska, The Truth about Tully is a moving coming-to-terms story that sheds gentle light on hidden feelings and barely articulated relationships – between brothers, between fathers and sons, between friends becoming lovers.

Tully Jr lives with his younger brother and taciturn father on their farm. Good-looking Tully has no problem scoring local girls; they come to him, and he casually drops farm implements for a moment of passion in the back seat, or on the bonnet of his car. He’s not exactly the wild kind, and there’s no deep confrontational drama going on between him and his family, he’s just a guy who makes no bones about accepting the rewards his attractiveness affords.

His younger brother Earl looks on, incredulous. He may not be so outgoing, but he is more in tune with what he’s about. He’s content raising prize-winning heifers, and seeking romantic advice from his friend Ella, who’s studying to become a vet.

To Earl’s dismay, Ella and Tully strike up a friendship. Tully Sr, meanwhile, hides from his sons the disturbing threat of the bank foreclosing on the farm. He’s been hiding many things, and it’s their gradual revelation which will allow Tully to confront the myths he’s created about the events that have shaped him.

The story’s told in brief scenes, and the script and acting (the faces are refreshingly unfamiliar) take it beyond the commonplace. Julianne Nicholson is particularly fine as Ella, with her innate sense of something ticking within Tully; her mocking but affectionate gaze seeking an honest exchange with him. She is a great character: strong, feeling, quietly fierce, and her virtues mirror those of this quietly terrific film. — SR