"Very Annie Mary" is a 2001 film written and directed by Sara Sugarman and starring Rachel Griffiths and Jonathan Pryce. It's an eccentric coming-of-age tale, set in South Wales, about a woman in her 30s who lives with her verbally abusive father who runs a bakery. After her father suffers a stroke, Annie Mary takes steps to emancipate herself and find the courage to sing once again.
It got some terrible reviews, calling it an "embarrassing and desperate attempt to create a heartwarming comedy out of a collection of ancient clichés, outrageous stereotypes and slapstick humour" (BBC News), a "half-klutzy, half-engaging, eccentric comedy falling prey to a general disorganization in tone and structure" (Variety Magazine), "alternately mushy and farcical ... with an undertone of satire that keeps the film from choking on its own cuteness" (The New York Times), a film with "a very derivative Monty-ish plot" (The Guardian), but one that is nevertheless "likeable and good natured" and "churns up a few genuinely funny bits," including a climax "that is almost worth waiting for."
I really liked this bizarre little flick. Yes, it was funny--at times downright hilarious. Is she for real? Who behaves like that? And her father--what kind of a father gives his grown daughter a cabbage for her birthday? If you've ever lived in a small town, some of it will seem cannily familiar. It's about people who do stupid things, without thinking ... and suffer the consequences; giving a best friend the one thing she really wants, above all, before she dies, that will take every ounce of courage inside you; it gives interesting little glimpses of the wacky and the wonderful, and the community that harbors them. Maybe, had I read the reviews, I'd not have bothered to see it. But it played once on TV and I stopped to watch it and can't get the conversations, images and music out of my head for some reason. Weird.
Okay, it's not a great film. And yet ... those breathtaking mountains and valleys of South Wales! Another fictional underdog gets her day in the sun. The lessons of forgiveness. Lost happiness, somehow recovered. Sometimes, even when wading through shlock, you get to the kernel of a thing and something else emerges. Something that resonates, has meaning. Comedy and cliché aside, there's something for everyone here. And it really was, despite what they say, funny, sad, and heartwarming.
My quirky film recommendation for the week.