Annie Mary (Wales) 2001
Certificate 15, 104 minutes
Sara Sugarman (Writer/Director)
Starring: Rachel Griffiths, Jonathan Pryce, Ioan Gruffudd, Matthew
Maddoc, Rhys Miles Thomas, Wendy Phillips, Anna Mountford, Rhian
Grundy, Kenneth Griffith, Llyr Evans release UK 25.May.01
Sara Sugarman is
no stranger to the Celtic Film Festival. In 1997 her hilarious Valley
Girls was awarded the best short film prize. Very Annie
Mary, which she wrote and directed, is her latest full-length
film since Mad Cows in 1999. Unfortunately Sara Sugarman
was unable to attend this screening of her work due to the continuing
chaos that is Britains railway network.
This is the story
of Annie Mary who eventually finds herself becoming a full-time carer
for her father, Jack Pugh, after he suffers a stroke. Jack is a pillar
of the community and before his stroke is renowned for his stunning
operatic voice. To the people of the Welsh village, Ogw, he is known
as the voice of the valley. But he is a rather vain and
self-centred man and treats his daughter with little respect, mocking
her attempts at independence. Annie-Mary too once had a beautiful singing
voice, which earned her a place at a Milan School of Opera, but she
turned it down to stay with her father as her mother had just fallen
tragically and then fatally ill.
Rachel Griffiths as Annie Mary outside her dreamhouse.
Since then Annie
can no longer sing. The story follows her efforts to find her voice,
and escape from under her fathers shadow. Her plight is particularly
well illustrated in one scene where she visits her mothers grave.
She attempts to sing but can only muster the weakest of notes, while
we hear her fathers voice booming around the valley from a loudspeaker.
Annie Mary is trying to find her voice in more ways than one.
It is a very moving
story that touches on serious and painful issues. We see how people
struggle emotionally and financially when having to look after an infirm
relative. We are reminded by Annie Marys best friend Bethan Bevan
of how cancer can destroy even the youngest of lives. It's this touching
relationship that is the centre of this film.
Mary is above all a heart-warming comedy, reminiscent
of Muriel s Wedding. In both films, the protagonists
are downtrodden young women who come from unfulfilling backgrounds and
set out to improve their lives. Both films present a host of bizarre
and colourful characters. Such as the wonderful bitchy, gay couple who
run Annie Marys local cornershop, excellently played by Ioan
Gruffudd and Matthew Rhys. Rachel Griffiths, an Australian
actress, also happens to star in these two films. In Very Annie
Mary she gives a brilliant performance as the title role,
and convincingly copes with the Welsh accent.
prepared for a touching tale with plenty of hilarity on the way.
There are some classic moments: a Full Monty striptease
performed by some rather under-aged strippers and the use of an
apricot sponge cake by a sultry female siren (lustily played by
Ruth Maddoc of Hi-de-Hi fame), to gain the affections of Annie Marys
dad. Revel too in the Pavarotti moment at the talent contest.
My only criticism
would be when Annie Mary risks losing a large sum of money in the bookmakers.
We understand by this stage that she desperately needs some cash to
help start her own life but she makes this gamble with money intended
for her terminally ill best friend, Bethan Bevan. The friendship between
the two seems too great for Annie to forsake in such a moment of extravagance.
It didnt seem within Annie Marys character to be so selfish.
With that one, small complaint aside this is a thoroughly enjoyable
film that is guaranteed to make you laugh and maybe cry a bit as well.
The film also stars
Jonathan Pryce who as Jack Pugh is Pavarotti mad, his performance is
sharply observed, playing mean, selfish and callous and just shows how
much he is underused. The scene where Annie MAry becomes his feetwarmer
is a wonderful, almost Buster Keaton moment in movie making.
Look out for Hinge, Minge,Fringe and Hob and Nob - yes it's all wonderful
Ealing comedy character stuff, but that's exactly why we love those
old movies, eccentric and utterly self-important. Other critics haven't
been kind, but I promise you, take a friend, this film is a hoot.
(Meriel Andrew who provides the female vocal voice for the film.)
Johnathan Pryce 'Boom'
of the VERY ANNIE MARY script is an adventure on it's own.
Sara Sugarman in her own words...
' During the development process, I sent the script off to the Sundance
Instistute and completely forgot about it,' says Sugarman. 'It was like
entering a competition on a cereal packet - fill in the form and never
dream you would win. When a fax arrived a few months later from Sundance
to say the script was among the last twenty five, I was really surprised
and pleased but didn't think it would go any further, then another fax
arrived to say it was in the last ten, and by the time it got down to
the last three, I really wanted to win.' Producer Graham Broadbent was
initially alarmed, then delighted, that the script finally won the prize
and then surprised again when it was one of three winners of the Orange
Pathe Script Prize. Says Sugarman, 'He kept saying 'Is there anything
else you haven't told me about?'
Very Annie Mary
is released in the UK on May 25th and is on general release now.
This is one British film that is absolutely fabulous. Five Stars
© Jim Johnson
Ioan Gruffudd, Matthew
Rhys camp it up in their 'Annie Get Your Gun' sequence
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