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Tumbleweeds is a 1999 American drama film directed by Gavin O'Connor. He co-wrote the screenplay with his then-wife Angela Shelton, who was inspired by her memories of a childhood spent on the road with her serial-marrying mother.


The story revolves around Mary Jo Walker, a single mother whose usual reaction to trouble is to pack her car with her belongings and take her pre-teen daughter Ava in search of greener pastures.

When a reunion with an old beau in Missourimarker proves to be less successful than anticipated, Mary Jo accedes to Ava's desire to see the Pacific Oceanmarker and heads west. Enroute they're assisted by long-distance trucker Jack Ranson, who coincidentally re-enters their lives after they've settled in San Diegomarker. Once again, Mary Jo foregoes both her independence and daughter's well-being in favor of having a man in her life. Her choices lead her and Ava into all-too-familiar territory, but this time when Mary Jo decides it's time to move on yet again, Ava - who finally has planted some roots - decides to rebel.


The film was shot on location in Agoura Hillsmarker, North Hollywoodmarker, Malibumarker, and the Eagle Rockmarker neighborhood in Los Angelesmarker.

The soundtrack includes "Private Conversation" by Lyle Lovett, "My Heart Skips a Beat" by Buck Owens, "One of These Days" by Emmylou Harris, "One Night Stand" by Lucinda Williams, and "Sea of Heartbreak" by Johnny Cash.

The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was shown at the Toronto International Film Festivalmarker and the Austin Film Festival before opening in Los Angeles and New York Citymarker on November 24, 1999.


Critical reception

In his review in the New York Times, Stephen Holden said the film "is a modestly produced slice of Americana. But its central performances are so extraordinarily nuanced and the screenplay so perfectly attuned to the twang and beat of everyday speech that in places the movie feels like a documentary . . . There are many moments when what is on the screen stops looking like acting and becomes life itself, and you're watching real people change and grow before your eyes."

Glenn Lovell of Variety said, "Powered by uncommon rapport between its femme leads and helmer's roughhewned sensibility, pic has what it takes to becomes the year's first heartfelt sleeper . . . [it] has topnotch production values and a strong supporting cast going for it."

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Peter Stack observed, "Tumbleweeds is far from a slick Hollywood-style production. It's not encumbered, for one thing, by star power . . . [and] its lack of stars becomes part of its charm . . . The interplay between Mary Jo and Ava is the film's great treat. They seem utterly natural together, bound by mother-daughter ties that are complex, touching, ultimately so powerful they yield the kind of tearful joy rarely experienced at the movies."

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said, "McTeer and Brown make magic in a film that is wonderfully funny, touching and vital."

Awards and nominations


  1. New York Times review
  2. Variety review
  3. San Francisco Chronicle review
  4. Rolling Stone review

External links

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