A-Z Movie Reviews: ‘Anywhere But Here’

Welcome to A-Z Movie Reviews.  Every Sunday, for the next several months, I will be posting a review of a film in my home movie collection.  How it works is, I will be reviewing movies in alphabetical order until I get to the letter Z (Yes, I do have a film that ends in Z).  Now I realize there are many ways to alphabetize a film collection but this is mine so don’t judge me.  This is simply for fun.


Welcome back to another week of A-Z Movie Reviews.  If you’re still here, that means you made it through the last 2 weeks.  I know those were some super sad movies but now we’re moving onto something a little more light-hearted. 

There are many movies that have a great impact on our lives and stick with us for years.  For me, Anywhere But Here is that movie.

Anywhere But Here, based on the book by Mona Simpson is a coming of age story about a young girl named Ann (Natalie Portman) who moves from Wisconsin to California with her mother Adele (Susan Sarandon).

This was actually one of the first films I watched with Natalie Portman and I fell in love with her acting immediately.  I’ve been a fan of her and her work ever since then. Natalie’s portrayal of Ann was so real and honest.  I was 15 years old at the time that I watched it and when the film starts, her character Ann is 14.  It’s no wonder I was able to identify so much with her.

Anywhere But Here (1999) - Natalie Portman | Natalie portman ...
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Being an adolescent is an extremely trying time but it’s even more so when your family dynamic changes entirely.  The film opens with Ann riding in the car with her mother Adele as they head to California.  Ann is clearly not happy about the move and spends a great deal of the trip sulking.

She didn’t want to leave the home she grew up in, her best friend, or her family particularly her cousin Benny (Shawn Hatosy) who she had a great relationship with.  Adele is completely oblivious because all she wants is to leave the small town of Bay City and never look back.  California is where she feels all of her and Anns dreams will come true.

It’s not as easy as Adele thought it would be though. 

When they get to California, she realizes just how expensive it is.  Adele and Ann have moved to Beverly Hills because she wants Ann to become an actress.  Ann doesn’t want that.  She wants to be back in Bay City with the people she knows and loves.  For Adele, living in Bay City is a life of being stuck and stagnant.  She wants so much more for Ann.  California, Beverly Hills to be exact, is where Adele believes all your dreams can come true.

The apartment they move into is not the best and because Adele is a single mother, she struggles to pay things like the rent and utilities.  

My adolescent years were somewhat similar to Ann’s.  I was a moody kid and I did a lot of sulking  especially after my parents broke up.  When my mom and dad divorced, we had to sell our house and move so I knew exactly how Ann felt.  Like Adele, my mom was also a single mother trying to make ends meet.  we had our fair share of struggles as well but my mom was definitely a bit more responsible than Adele.

For Ann, she feels like she has to be the mature one and the voice of reason.  When her mom wants to spend money on fancy restaurants etc., Ann is the one who questions how they can afford it.  Because she spends so much time worrying about her mom, Ann oftens finds it hard to just be a normal kid.

Adele just wants the best in life for Ann and she is willing to sacrifice anything to make it happen.  She doesn’t always make the best choices but she’s still a great mom.  Our mothers know their responsibilities even better than we do.  When Adele took Ann to the fancy French restaurant, she knew what it would cost her but, giving her daughter a nice evening out was more important to her.

As I watched the film with my adult eyes, I thought about all the things my mom sacrificed for me and it was a great deal.  We will never know every single thing our moms do for us behind the scenes to make our dreams come true.  All we ever know is that they found a way to make things happen.  Ann realized just how much her mom was willing to sacrifice for her when she helped her with her dream of going to Brown University.

Ann’s big dream was always to go to a college back east.  When she got accepted to Brown, it was the best news of her life.  Her dream would not have happened without her moms sacrifice.  Although Ann had a scholarship, there was still a portion that her mom had to pay.  It seemed like Ann would not be able to go until her mother sold their car.    

Adele knew what going to Brown meant to Ann and even though it hurt to let her go, she did everything she could to make it happen.  Ann’s life with her mother wasn’t perfect and neither was mine but, like Ann, I would not change anything about it.  

Anywhere But Here will always have a special place in my heart.  It’s a film that mothers and daughters can all relate to and it may even make you appreciate your own mother more than you ever did before. 

Other Thoughts

  • After all these years of loving this film, I just realized it was based on a book which I now want to read.
  • Ann’s dad sucks and I still feel that way.  He left her when she was 4 years old and then when she called him on the phone years later, he was such a dick.
  • Natalie Portman’s transformation from a moody 14 year old to a mature 17 year old girl in the film was amazing.  She’s truly a talented actress. 
  • I still cry my eyes out every time I watch the scene when Ann finds out her cousin Benny (Shawn Hatosy) died.  They were so close and it was heartbreaking.
  • Why do they always use Sarah Mclachlan’s “I Will Remember You” in funeral scenes? that just makes me ugly cry even more. 
  • Mrs. Letterfine the woman who helped Adele get all of her apartments, was a very patient person considering Adele snuck out of the first place she found for them in the middle of the night without paying rent.
  • I still cringe when I watch the morning after phone call Adele makes to Josh the dentist she hooked up with.  When she tells him “I love you” after they had one date, I still yell “NO!” at my TV screen.
  • The scene when Peter comes over to see Ann is so beautifully done and still one of my favorites.  
  • I still sing “Be Optimistic, don’t you be a grumpy, when the road gets bumpy, just smile, smile, smile be happy.” Don’t wear a long face, it’s never in style, be optimistic and smile.” when i’m having a bad day. 

Anywhere But Here is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video. 

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