Agnes Browne

1999, Movie, R, 92 mins


Leaving aside the bizarre climax in which a certain swivel-hipped Welsh pop star arrives to save the day, this is a warm and engaging bit of domestic drama featuring a fine supporting cast and a star turn by director-leading lady Anjelica Huston. It's 1967, and at 4:10 AM on a typically wet Dublin morning, the husband of Agnes Browne (Huston) gives up the ghost; by lunchtime, she's down at social services applying for her widow's pension. With seven kids and a meager income from the fruit-and-vegetable stand she mans on Market Street, Agnes has no choice but to think practically, and turns to predatory loan shark Mr. Billy (Ray Winstone) in order to pay for her late husband's funeral. But once that's done and Mr. Billy has been paid off, Agnes is surprised to discover that though life is harder than ever, misfortune has brought a certain freedom. With the emotional support of best friend Marion (Marion O'Dwyer) and a little romantic interest from the neighborhood's new French baker (Arno Chevrier), Agnes wonders whether she ever need rely on a man again. Worming its way through this genuinely charming film is talk of the impending arrival of pop sensation Tom Jones, whose records constitute one of Agnes's few guilty pleasures. That Jones not only puts in appearance, but becomes Agnes's eleventh-hour savior when it looks as though the snorting Mr. Billy has finally gotten the best of her, comes as a shock. It throws a surreal spin on an otherwise unglamorous slice of real life, but hardly spoils the film; the acting alone is too good for that. Winstone is perfectly unsavory; O'Dwyer makes a promising debut; and Huston, with a flawless Irish accent, is simply wonderful as the tough, foul-mouthed and very funny Agnes Browne. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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