Mary Jo (Janet McTeer) is a sexy Southern woman who has a penchant for putting herself in a subservient role to manipulative and moody men. She suffers from poor self-esteem. Whenever a relationship turns bad, she cuts and runs with her twelve-year-old daughter Ava (Kimberly J. Brown).
After leaving husband number four, Mary Jo heads for California after Ava declares she wants to live by the beach. This mother-and-daughter team share a yearning for roots. Ava makes friends in a new school while Mary Jo settles down with Jack (Gavin O'Connor), a trucker whom she sees as her very own "Marlboro Man." Quitting a secretarial job with a lecherous boss (Michael J. Pollard), she finds employment with Ginger (Lois Smith), a florist.
Ava, it turns out, has a better eye for men than her mother. She befriends Dan Miller (Jay O'Sanders), a widower who teaches her the right technique for acting in a production of Romeo and Juliet. She begins dating a boy in her class and, thanks to her mom's instructions, kisses him just right.
Based on a story by Angela Shelton, Tumbleweeds shows how Ava helps Mary Jo stand on her own two feet and face the music of the future without giving up her uniqueness to please a man. The Russian playwright Anton Chekhov once observed: "I must squeeze the slave out of myself drop by drop." In this fine drama that process is brought home to our hearts with just the right mix of pathos and realism. The film was directed by Gavin O'Connor.