Main cast: Anjelica Huston (Agnes Browne), Marion O’Dwyer (Marion Monks), Niall O’Shea (Mark Browne), Ciaran Owens (Frankie Browne), Ray Winstone (Mr Billy), Arno Chevrier (Pierre), and Tom Jones (Himself)
Director: Angelica Huston
Angelica Huston’s baby Agnes Browne (she directed, produced, and starred in it) walks a somewhat awkward balance between overdone sap and heartfelt sentimentality. Towards the last hour, unfortunately, this movie loses it completely and hurtles right into Disney TV movie territory.
Agnes Browne has recently lost her kitchen-sweep no-good husband and now she has seven hungry kids to feed. She sells vegetables at the roadside and therefore isn’t earning enough to even afford the funeral for the husband. She borrows money from Mr Billy, the ruffian moneylender, and tries to start life anew with her kids.
It’s not easy. The eldest boy is questioning about the horrifying hair growing on his willie. The second son is mixing with bad company. And Agnes herself is always trying to scrape enough to feed the family and pay off Mr Billy. And the baker Pierre is making eyes at her, ooh.
But she has good and bosom buddies in her best friend Marion who runs the fruit stall beside her, as well as her fellow street hawkers. But life has so much more in store for Agnes Browne, and the worst – or best – is yet to come.
This movie is based on Brendan O’Carroll’s novel The Mammy, which I haven’t even heard of until now. I don’t know how well the movie fares compared to the book, but I do know that the movie is a slow, pleasant drama in its first hour. Ms Huston plays Agnes with a mix of strength and vulnerability well. Agnes isn’t a smart or intelligent woman, and sometimes she can be a lousy mother, but she tries to survive. And she is loved for it, rightly so. Marion, Agnes’s best friend share some bittersweet moments with Agnes that has me crying my heart out. And the eldest Browne boy Mark’s growing up too soon makes me shake my heart in pity. But he’ll survive. The Brownes are strong – they will survive.
However, if the movie sets up the theme of faith, strength, and family togetherness, the last hour totally contradicts that, making the Brownes a mockery of what they are in the first hour. Without giving anything away, let me just say that it tells me that in the end, forget courage, forget strength. Latch on to a limousine and you are okay in the end.
It is really tragic that the movie ends up parodying itself. Still, it was pretty heartwarming when it wanted to be.