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I, Anna - DVD Review

I, Anna

Review by Sarah Essa

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

I, ANNA marks an impressive directorial and writing debut from TV producer, Barnaby Southcombe, albeit with some big flaws.

Based on the novel by Elsa Lewin, the film revolves around the romance between a police detective named Bernie (Gabriel Byrne), who is investigating a murder, and Anna (Charlotte Rampling), the prime suspect in the case, and sees the mystery unravel as their relationship deepens.

There is much cleverness in I, Anna to be admired, particularly in Southcombe’s skill at adapting the source material. The novel was set in New York but Southcombe transfers it to the British capital and embarks on an interesting route of reviving film noir storytelling in modern London, that hasn’t been attempted by filmmakers since the 1950s.

The depiction of anonymous London, with a beautiful shot of Rampling inside an empty tunnel and the grey, foreboding, concrete architecture of The Barbican, is particularly haunting.

This distance and coldness of London keeps the viewer at bay but Southcombe contrasts this well with warm moments of intimacy between Byrne and Rampling.

What makes their relationship even more touching is how real it is, as the two play wandering souls making their rounds through the singles scene, alone at a mature age, until finding each other, thereby highlighting the familiar irony of the lonely Londoner in a city of millions.

There are also timeless film noir elements employed in I, Anna, notably with Rampling’s on-screen entrance as the femme fatale in a blood red dress using an alias.

The directing is intelligent, too, with the eerie slowness of each scene enabling the viewer to drift along with the characters’ everyday lives. There is a fascinating sense of normality to the film, too, as we see Anna return to work in John Lewis after the murder and life effectively ‘goes on’ rather than some crazy police car chase ensuing or high octane action sequence.

The star of the show is undeniably Rampling, whose composure and face say so much without words. But Byrne is equally convincing.

The big problem with I, Anna is the finale, which simply doesn’t reach the crescendo that one expects – you almost can’t believe ‘that’s it’ until you see the credits rolling up. It’s not so much a cliffhanger as it is incomplete. In this way, the film seems to fall at the last hurdle.

Hence, while I, Anna is great at offering an alternative vision of London, away from the touristic landmarks that plague films such as Notting Hill and Love Actually, and is notable for bringing back film noir, it also leaves the viewer feeling like they’ve had a succulent starter minus the main course.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 93mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: April 8, 2013