Amy

An earnest attempt to fob off a sentimental and rather silly melodrama as a gritty piece of urban realism, partially redeemed by good performances and some amusing (if cliched) supporting characters. Tanya Rammus (the great Rachel Griffiths, without whose coiled-spring intensity the film would be all but intolerable) is a single mom whose eight-year-old,...read more

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Reviewed by Steve Simels
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An earnest attempt to fob off a sentimental and rather silly melodrama as a gritty piece of urban realism, partially redeemed by good performances and some amusing (if cliched) supporting characters. Tanya Rammus (the great Rachel Griffiths, without whose coiled-spring intensity the film would be all but intolerable) is a single mom whose eight-year-old, the titular Amy (Alana De Roma), is both deaf and mute. When we first encounter them they're hidden away on a farm in the Australian outback. Forced to flee unfeeling Child Welfare agents who want to take Amy from her mom, the pair make their way to a seedy working class Melbourne neighborhood populated in equal measure by drunken brutes (William Zappa), sensitive kids (Jeremy Trigatti) and crotchety old ladies who conceal hearts of gold (Mary Ward). Not long after their arrival, a neighbor, aspiring songwriter Robert (Ben Mendelssohn) discovers that Amy's not actually physically handicapped; amazingly enough, all you have to do is sing to her and she'll return the favor! Several cutesy sing-along scenes later — the best involves Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" — we finally discover Amy's deep dark secret: Some years earlier, she saw her rock star father (Nick Barker) electrocuted and burned to death during on an on-stage thunderstorm, a dramatic conceit that's no more improbable, say, than finding out that your highly respected psychiatrist is actually a transvestite serial killer. The rest of the film involves various people, including a well-meaning psychologist (Frank Gallacher) and several neighbors who might as well have "comic relief" tattooed on their foreheads, help Amy deal with her guilt until she has the predictable cathartic vocal breakthrough en route to a happily-ever-after finale. On the plus side, director Nadia Tass stages one of the most convincing fake rock concerts ever (Barker, formerly of Aussie faves The Reptiles, makes a suitably convincing alt-pop idol), and writer/producer/cinematographer David Parker's script is not without a certain wit: The scene in which Melbourne police beat the bushes for Amy while making like the Red Army Choir is actually pretty funny. Still, your ability to overlook the film's myriad contrivances will ultimately depend on how you react to little De Roma. She's a natural-born actress and an amazingly powerful singer for her age, but she also bears an uncomfortable resemblance to Hallie Kate Eisenberg, the satanically precocious kid from those millennial Pepsi commercials.

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