Sara Sugarman's "Very Annie-Mary" is an ingratiating Welsh comedy starring Rachel Griffiths in the title role as a jaunty but repressed and frumpy 33-year-old spinster who lives with her father (Jonathan Pryce) behind their bakery in a row of stone houses in the quaint village of Ogw. At 15, Annie-Mary took the top prize in Wales' most important singing competition, which included a scholarship to study in Milan.
But her mother was dying, and her father, regarded locally as Wales' greatest tenor, made it clear she was needed to stay home and help out at the bakery. Her preening, self-important father, in fact, has never treated his only child with anything but contempt, reserving his greatest scorn for her singing voice. As a result, she hasn't sung since.
Despite her sorry lot, Annie-Mary, while a dutiful daughter, still has spirit and hope, both for romance and especially for getting out of her father's house. She has come upon an old house for sale that is invitingly situated on the crest of a hill. The place can be hers for a down payment of only 120 pounds. Just as she's figuring out how she can get her hands on the money, a drastic turn of events looks to crush her modest dreams--or just possibly provide her with a way to assert herself at last. At 105 minutes, "Very Annie-Mary" is too long by roughly 15 minutes, but it does provide its versatile stars with highly enjoyable roles. Griffiths--who has "Muriel's Wedding," "Hilary and Jackie" and HBO's "Six Feet Under" among her credits--is a constant delight as the irrepressible Annie-Mary, and so is Pryce as her amusingly nasty father. There are numerous hearty supporting players, and Joanna Page is affecting as Annie-Mary's only really close friend, a dying 16-year-old who is wise and without self-pity. "Very Annie-Mary" is familiar but winningly funny and good-hearted.
Unrated. Times guidelines: Some sex, some language.
Joanna Page...Bethan Bevan
An Empire Pictures release of a Dragon Pictures production co-produced with FilmFour Ltd., the Arts Council of Wales and the Arts Council of England. Writer-director Sara Sugarman. Producers Graham Broadbent, Damian Jones. Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd. Editor Robin Sales. Music Stephen Warbeck. Costumes Caroline Harris. Art director Tim Ellis.
Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.
At selected theaters.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times