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Annie Mary (Rachel Griffiths) lives under the thumb of her singing baker father (Jonathan Pryce), wistfully wasting her life away in a Welsh valley, after her mother’s death coincided with a singing scholarship in Milan, which she won as a teenager but was unable to take. But her father’s voice is the only one the villagers of Ogw know these days; he flaunts it in church and through loudspeakers on top of his bread delivery van. She dreams of stepping out of her father’s shadow, and even of buying her own house, but it takes a series of fateful turns – including a fund raising variety competition which she inadvertently helps win – before her best friend’s (Joanna Page) deathbed wishes prompt her to find the strength to stand up for herself and regain her self esteem – and her voice.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:

The script is a scream, by all accounts, winning prizes left, right and almost centre (details on request) and some of its qualities have been transferred successfully to the screen. But not all. Apparently Sugarman began working on it right after she finished film school in 1995. I mention this because her lack of experience at the time may explain the triteness of the underlying story. It’s Sugarman’s sense of humour that would have impressed judges of script competitions, I imagine, not the bucketfuls of sentimentality and forced laughs that come through on the screen.

I didn’t much like Sugarman’s Mad Cows, either: I said of that screenplay that “The written version is undoubtedly funnier, with its surrealism and black farce elements (and the writing itself) but on the screen, Mad Cows is a cowpat in the field of cinema.” Same here; perhaps Sugarman should write more and direct less. The punch of the script also helps explain the presence of Pryce and Griffiths, neither of whom come out of this unscathed. Pryce pursues a rather featureless character while Griffiths chases her woman-child Annie-Mary largely characterised by gormlessness. The problem seems to be the uncertainty of tone Sugarman wants to achieve; the film veers from farce to faux-tragedy to black comedy and occasional scenes of straight drama.

But if her lead actors are set confusing emotional touchstones, most of the supporting cast seem to have worked out what makes their characters tick naturally. Not much use is made of the Welsh hills and valleys, and the pace is laborious.

The 6-minute Behind the Scenes feature on the DVD is a fairly ordinary and predictable cut of the EPK, with overlays from the film. (Just what you need on the DVD of the film…)

The audio commentary by writer/director Sara Sugerman is a basic “this is..” style, and she sounds rather uninspired. To her great credit, she doesn’t talk too much.

Published October 2, 2003

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CAST: Rachel Griffiths (singing voice of Meriel Andrews), Jonathan Pryce, Joanna Page, Rhys Miles Thomas, Ruth Madoc, Donna Edwards, Josh Richards

DIRECTOR: Sara Sugarman

SCRIPT: Sara Sugarman

RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes


DVD RELEASE: November 26, 2003

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