Movie review by
Teresa Talerico, Common Sense Media
Tumbleweeds Movie Poster Image
Touching look at tough mom-daughter relationship.
  • PG-13
  • 1999
  • 103 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Although she clearly loves her daughter, an irresponsible mother continually uproots the girl in her quest to find a man, run away from her problems or both. The girl is so accustomed to her mom's dysfunctional, sometimes violent, relationships that she has learned to establish an "escape route" in her new bedroom each time they move.


The movie opens with a violent argument between a husband and wife. They yell, curse, and throw dishes at each other. The woman challenges the man to punch her; he threatens her with his fist, but hits the refrigerator instead. While having dinner at a restaurant, a man gets angry at his girlfriend's daughter, threatening to hit her with a book.


A man and woman meet at a bar and then wake up together the next morning in a motel; it's understood that they have had sex. Later, they are shown kissing passionately on the bed when the woman's daughter comes home early from school. A preteen boy and girl are shown kissing. In another scene, the girl begins menstruating; she and her mother talk about visits from her "Aunt Rosie" and goof around with sanitary napkins. Two women make gestures similar to a man masturbating and describe their boss "choking his chicken." A woman is shown in her bra. A woman teaches her preteen daughter how to kiss by practicing on an apple; she asks her daughter if she is French-kissing yet. The scene is played for laughs and illustrates a lighthearted moment between the two.


Characters, including a preteen girl, use profanity such as "goddamn," "bulls--t," "asshole," "f--king," and "tits." A character shoots "the finger" at someone.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters are shown drinking alcohol. Two women drink shots at a bar. A guilt-ridden man explains that his wife died in a car accident; he was the driver, and he had drunk too much alcohol at a party. A young girl uses an inhaler for her asthma; her friend tries out the inhaler on one occasion.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that although the mother portrayed in Tumbleweeds can be irresponsible, viewers never doubt that she loves her daughter and wants her to be happy. Still, because of her poor decisions and erratic lifestyle, Mary Jo does cause instability and emotional trauma in her daughter's life. There also are some scenes with mild violence and sexuality, such as when a couple has a heated, potentially physical argument and when a preteen girl comes home from school to find her mother making out with a strange man. Some strong language, including "f--k" and "goddamn."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bydvdgirl December 13, 2019


I thought it was cute maybe a movie for older kids or eleven or twelve. Not bad.
Parent Written byFosterFan August 3, 2011

You really can't miss this one!

Janet McTeer & Kimberly J. Brown are wonderful as Mary Jo and her daughter Ava. Yes, there's kissing, snogging, bras & even a little sweari... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

After another relationship inevitably goes south for her, free-spirited single mother Mary Jo Walker (Janet McTeer) packs up everything -- including her 12-year-old daughter, Ava (Kimberly J. Brown) -- and takes to the road, running from town to town in search of the next man in her life. They make their way to San Diego, where Mary Jo takes up with a trucker (Gavin O'Connor) who turns out to be aggressive and mean-spirited. Meanwhile, Ava, tired of a life of constant upheaval, tries to settle in at her new school and even auditions for the lead in the school play. Mary Jo's instinct to flee becomes a problem for Ava, who just wants a place to call home. 

Is it any good?

McTeer instills Mary Jo Walker with an earthy, Southern-fried sexiness. She's obviously had a hardscrabble life, but it hasn't robbed her of optimism or whimsy. As Ava, Brown deftly handles her role as a typical preadolescent who loves being silly but who must also serve as the voice of reason for her charmingly irresponsible mother. Their moments together seem genuine and are the highlights of the film, whether they're rehearsing lines from Ava's school play or singing the fitting song "Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)" as they drive toward a new life.

Their relationship is the heart of the movie, although the supporting cast is great, including Jay O. Sanders as Dan, a sweet and sensitive co-worker who is haunted by his past; Laurel Holloman as Laurie, Mary Jo's friend and hangout buddy; and O'Connor, who brings some depth (insecurity, self-consciousness) to his portrayal of the macho, controlling Dan. Families will enjoy watching Mary Jo "grow up" as Ava finally gets a chance to be a real kid.


Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Mary Jo and Ava have reversed their roles as mother and daughter. Which scenes illustrate this role reversal?

  • Do you think today's kids are more aware of issues like sexuality and violence thanks to the influence of the Internet and other media sources?

Movie details

  • In theaters: January 24, 1999
  • On DVD or streaming: November 24, 2000
  • Cast: Janet McTeer, Jay O. Sanders, Kimberly J. Brown
  • Studio: New Line
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 103 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: language, sensuality and a scene of domestic discord
  • Last updated: March 14, 2020

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