Today: June 22, 2024

I, Anna

A tricksy, convoluted neo-noir thriller that’s nowhere near as tricksy or convoluted as it thinks it is

A tricksy,
convoluted neo-noir thriller that’s nowhere near as tricksy or convoluted as it
thinks it is
, I, Anna is a
stylish, good-looking exercise in tedium and nepotism set in trendy, modern,
cosmopolitan London. Or at least
the Barbican where most of it seems to have been shot.

The feature film debut of TV director Barnaby Southcombe, I, Anna
sees Barnaby cast his mother, Charlotte
, as lonely, older, divorcee Anna, tentatively dipping her toe back
into the dating scene. After an
uncomfortable night’s speed dating, Anna is heading home when she encounters
world-weary police detective Bernie (Gabriel
), quite literally bumping into him as he arrives at the high-rise
she’s leaving, and the two share an instant connection.

Bernie’s investigating the bloody murder of well-off,
charming bachelor George Stone (Ralph
) who attended the same dating event as Anna. The chief suspects are Stone’s son
Stevie (Max Deacon) and his friend; a
petty crook in debt to some local gangsters. But Bernie can’t get Anna out of his mind, his attraction to
her verging on stalking when he follows her to a singles night where the two
bond over their failed marriages and lonely lives. Anna has some dark secrets, secrets locked away in the back
of her mind, secrets that Stone’s death have brought bubbling to the surface,
forcing Anna to confront her tragic past.

With its blandly moody Richard Hawley soundtrack, its
predictable, obvious plot and its leaden pace I, Anna feels like an escaped TV movie. Glossy and expensive looking, with a nice, atmospheric sense
of place and time, it’s a shame the film squanders a fantastic, eclectic cast (Gabriel Byrne, Eddie Marsan, Hayley Atwell,
Jodhi May, Honor Blackman
) on such a pedestrian tale and, long before
Anna’s flashbacks start unravelling her past, you’ll have divined the enigma at
the heart of I, Anna, Southcombe
favouring the film’s surface sheen at the expense of his sloppy storytelling.

While the cast are mostly excellent and Byrne is on
particularly fine, mournful form as the rumpled Bernie, perhaps the film’s
greatest deficiency is the casting of Rampling as a middle-aged singleton who
works in the bedding department of a department store. Elegant and poised, it may be ageist to
say it but, at 66, she feels (and looks) at least 16 years too old for the role
and she’s just too damn glam to convince as someone who sells mattresses! It’s lovely (and, during the film’s
rape scene, a little uncomfortable) that Southcombe loves his mummy enough to
build his film around her but she’s simply miscast. There’s little sense of much-needed chemistry with Byrne
and, with her steely reserve and coolness, it’s difficult to feel much sympathy
for Rampling even as Anna’s sanity disintegrates and flashbacks of her
repressed memories reveal the reasons for Anna’s fracturing personality.

Downbeat, slick and initially intriguing before buckling
under the weight of its own ridiculousness, I, Anna makes dating in your
twilight years look like just about as good an idea as that time in Dallas,
1963, when Bad Back Jack turned to the future Mrs Onassis and said: “Why don’t
we leave the top down today hun?”

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email:

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