When you hear the expression “home for the holidays” your mind probably conjures up warm, fuzzy feelings about spending time with loved ones.  For siblings Fanny, Annie, and Danny in writer/director Chris Brown’s independent drama though, it evokes nightmarish thoughts about holiday traditions in their overbearing mother’s house.  In his third directorial effort “Fanny, Annie & Danny,” Brown follows each of the three siblings, cutting between them, as they each make their way toward Christmas at home. 

Our story opens with Fanny (Jill Pixley), a developmentally challenged woman.  Fanny, like any other person, is a creature of habit; she practices her recorder in the morning and works on an assembly line at a candy factory.  These daily rituals help Fanny make sense of her world and provide stability. 

Her routine is thrown into disarray however, when she’s delivered the startling news that her factory will be closing, and that she will be out of a job.  Even though she’s given a large severance check from her employer, Fanny is confused about how her new situation will affect her life.

Next, Brown introduces us to Annie (Carlye Pollack), an anxious dental hygienist, who is overly concerned about how others perceive her, especially her boss.  When he delivers the news that he plans to hire another assistant, she feels incredibly threatened.  Annie worries about losing her position, since she’s already struggling financially to plan her wedding with her fiancé Todd (Nick Frangione), an unemployed stoner. 

The final sibling we meet is Danny (Jonathan Leveck), a hot-shot music agent.  When Danny’s employer accuses him of skimming off the top, he’s forced into a terrible position: he must either pay back the money or risk the legal consequences.  Unsure how to proceed, Danny retreats to the only solace he can think of, his family.  So he reluctantly informs his mother that he’ll be coming home for Christmas.

Armed with the knowledge that all her children will be coming home, Edie (Colette Keen), the matriarch of the family, frantically begins preparations with the hope of having the “perfect” Christmas.  To accomplish this, Edie enforces her ruthless expectations on her husband Ronnie and her children.  She yells at Ronnie to clean up the house, she orders Annie to prepare the casserole, and she chides Fanny to be on her best behavior.

As a director, Chris Brown really zeroes in on Fanny, Annie, and Danny as characters, building your sympathy for them over the course of the film.  When you see Fanny mistreated by her family, it’s easy to get frustrated on her behalf.  You can also get inside Annie’s torment, for all the attention her mother gives Danny instead of her.  Despite some of Danny’s questionable moral decisions, you can still see how it’s difficult for him to live up to his mother’s high hopes for him. 

By the time the three siblings gather in their mother’s house, their collective anxieties cause tensions to mount slowly until they culminate in an explosive emotional train wreck that you can’t look away from.  As you witness this terrible family gathering, you’ll either find yourself relating to the own imperfections of your family, or reminding yourself how lucky you are to have the complete opposite.  Either way, “Fanny, Annie & Danny” will suck you in with its realistic characters and its hellish glimpse into holidays gone awry.    

My Grade: A