Very Annie-Mary
Very. Rachel Griffiths stars as a disturbed--and funny--young Welsh woman.
dir-scr Sara Sugarman
with Rachel Griffiths, Jonathan Pryce, Ioan Gruffudd, Matthew Rhys, Joanna Page, Ruth Madoc, Rhys Miles Thomas, Wendy Phillips, Anna Mountford, Rhian Grundy, Kenneth Griffith, Llyr Evans
release UK 25.May.01; US 22.Mar.02
FilmFour 01/UK 1h44
2 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
This offbeat Welsh comedy wants desperately to draw us into its wacky little world. And with the presence of a few very good actors it almost does, generating sympathy for even the most bizarre characters in the story. But in the end the quirk-factor wins out, leaving us completely cold.

Annie-Mary (the ubiquitous Griffiths) is approaching 30 yet still acts more like 15, her age when her mother died. Her strict father (Pryce), the village baker, has raised her since then with very little compassion--strict and condescending, and refusing to cultivate her award-winning singing voice because he's more concerned with his own. But Annie-Mary dreams of independence. Then two events change her life forever: The village rallies round her fatally ill best friend Bethan (Page), age 16, saving up money to send her to Disneyland before she dies, even if she doesn't want to go. And her father has a stroke.

It's one thing when the central characters in a British film are surrounded by eccentric villagers; it's another thing when the central characters themselves are so eccentric that we find it hard to like them at all. This film is only remotely watchable because of Griffiths and Pryce, who bring an astonishing dignity to their bizarrely written roles and just about make human beings out of them. Around them we have the usual goofy vicar (Griffith), gay shopkeepers (Gruffudd and Rhys), randy widow (Madoc), bumbling dweeb (Thomas), and so on. Each person and event is so peculiar that as it goes on the warm humour begins to grate on our nerves. We feel increasingly uncomfortable with Annie-Mary's Pee-Wee Hermanesque behaviour, right up to the excruciating climactic sequence during an outing in Cardiff. It's one of those films you actually want to succeed--because there are some interesting things going on, and Annie-Mary is someone you desperately want to see overcome her limitations. But as it proceeds we realise it's simply not going anywhere meaningful, and that's a real pity.
adult themes and situations, language cert 15 23.Apr.01

send your review to Shadows... R E A D E R   R E V I E W S

"An excellent, humorous film. The setting for the film shows the beauty of the Welsh valleys, as well as covering most of the local characters to be found in the area. The soundtrack of the film is excellent ranging from the Ogmore Valley Male Voice Choir's rendition of the classic Myfanwy, to Cerys Matthews of Catatonia fame. Well worth the entrance fee if only for the performances of Hob and Nob (Gruffudd and Rhys)!" --Phil Davies, Ogmore Valley, Wales 27.May.01

"It is a brilliant film and I don't know what all the rage against it is about." --Janet Jasons, London 8.Jun.01

very annie-mary "Great performance by the Australian actress Rachel Griffiths in this heart-warming take on life in the Rhondda Valley, South Wales. Watch out, too, for Meriel Andrew who provides the female vocal voice for the film." --Steven Jones, Streatham, SW London 11.Jun.01

"You'd have to be pretty cynical not to be drawn in by the characters. They are perfectly acted and the world they create is very real. It's a bit sad at times but turns out to be one hell of a feel-good movie without being too cheesy. Great for the whole family." --Sebastian, Auckland 27.Oct.02

2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall