28 September 2004 | gpadillo
A Love Song to Life
Very Annie Mary took me by shock and surprise.
Rachel Griffiths gives her finest performance and though the film is 3 years old, she hasn't as yet done anything quite as satisfying as her brilliant turn as Annie.
33 year old, Annie comes off as mildly retarded, and, in the truest sense of the word, she is, since life pretty well ended at 15. That's when Annie Mary, who wanted nothing more than to be an opera singer, won a vocal competition judged by Pavarotti who told her she would have a marvelous career, and she's given a grant to study in Milan.
That same week, her mother took ill, died, and Annie was forced to give up her dreams to stay and take her mother's place in the home. Her father accomplishes his means by humiliating Annie into believing she isn't special, she isn't, in fact, anything at all.
As Dad, Pugh, Jonathan Pryce is terrific as. Selfish and cold hearted almost two decades after he's shattered her dreams, the man still berates his daughter calling her talentless, useless, stupid, slovenly and cuts her to her heart laughing at her "what man would ever have you?" He forces her to dress in his own dead mother's shapeless, matronly as he constantly tells Annie how beautiful her mother was.
The film opens with Pryce singing Puccini's Nessun Dorma from a mounted speaker system atop his bakery delivery truck as he drives through the Welsh countryside. As the camera pulls in, we see Pugh "The Voice of the Valley" in a rubber Pavarotti mask and wearing an Pavarotti sized tuxedo. Beautiful and hilarious all at once.
While not slapstick Griffiths' Annie Mary is prone to extreme clumsiness often moving (especially when running) like an excited 5 year old, all stiff arms and awkwardness. She's adorable. Clumsiness leads to minor accidents, falls down stairs, running into doors and other objects each moment is hilarious yet does something to endear this ugly duckling even more to us.
When Dad suffers a stroke, Annie Mary is forced to take care of the household with riotous and disastrous results.
The heart of the film centers around Annie's relationship the village and her best friend, Bethan, a bedridden teenager. The village wish for Bethan is to send her to Disneyland. Bethan's only wish is to hear Annie sing. Through an unlikely series of events(including a talent competition, a bouncing Pavarotti, the Village People and the Welsh Grand National Horserace and the entire village turning against Annie) Bethan and the village get to hear Annie Mary find her voice again. It is a magical moment blending pathos, forgiveness, hope, heartbreak and Puccini, as Annie Mary finds not only her voice, but the means to carry on.
Very Annie Mary is easily one of the most joyous DVD discoveries I've made.