Charming, spirited, quirky, and with a serious undertow, writer-director Sara Sugarman’s comedy Very Annie Mary boasts a beautiful performance by Australia’s Rachel Griffiths as a baker’s shy, klutzy daughter in a South Wales village. Her titular character, although 30, seems not to have emotionally advanced beyond 15, her age when her very supportive mother died. Annie Mary’s father is a tyrant who derides his daughter’s any aspiration, has her lie across his bed so she can warm his feet at night, and gifts her with a cabbage on her birthday. When the bastard has a stroke, Annie Mary must literally tote the baggage that he in any case figuratively represents.
Annie Mary has three friends. One is Bethan Bevan, a terminally ill 16-year-old girl. Annie Mary joins villagers in trying to raise enough money to send Bethan to Disneyland. Annie Mary’s other two friends are shopkeepers Hob and Nob, a pair of twentysomething gay ol’ boys. Matthew Rhys (who currently plays the gay brother of Griffiths’ character’s on TV’s Brothers & Sisters) is hilarious as Nob, especially when singing, with Hob, “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun” from Annie Get Your Gun.
Annie Mary has a talent: she can sing and has a competitive prize to prove it. But her mother’s illness kept her from accepting a scholarship in Milan, and she hasn’t sung since. Granting Bethan’s last wish, Annie Mary sings for her and again at her funeral. When she raises her eyes to heaven, it is with her best friend and her mother both in mind. Keep watching; a wonderful scene that runs with the closing credits brings the film to completion.
The film is uneven; it’s far from perfect. Ah, but Griffiths and Rhys: What joy they give us!
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