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Anna Karenina - Review

Anna Karenina

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

JOE Wright has previously turned period drama into an art form with Pride & Prejudice and Atonement. But while Anna Karenina operates on many of the same principles and, indeed, cast it’s a fatally flawed film.

By attempting to do justice to the many facets of Tolstoy’s source novel, Wright spreads the film’s many characters too thin, even though attempts to give them greater depth and fallibility are noble.

While his decision to employ a stagey, overtly theatrical directing style at times, and a more sweeping and traditional period one at others, also becomes distracting and pulls you out of the film.

The central romance between Keira Knightley’s Anna and Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Count Vronsky also fails to convince, for while the former is reliably good, the latter often feels out of his depth.

Secondary romances involving the characters of Kitty and Levin (played by Alicia Vikander and Domhnall Gleeson) or Dolly (Kelly Macdonald) and Oblonsky (Matthew Macfadyen) also feel under-developed.

That’s not to say Wright’s film isn’t without merit but the faults eventually outweight the positives and contribute to a story that’s more dull than enthralling.

Set amid late 19th Century Russian high-society, Anna Karenina follows the central character (Knightley) as she embarks on an ill-advised affair with the young, charming Count Vronsky (Taylor-Johnson) despite being married to Alexei Karenin (Jude Law) and risking her place within society.

It also follows the innocent love that Levin develops for Kitty (herself fixated upon Vronsky) and touches upon the adulterous tendencies of Anna’s brother, Oblonsky.

In its favour, the film is fearless in its ability to portray each character as flawed. Knightley, especially, layers the emotions as Anna, emerging as both foolhardy and sympathetic at various points, while Law’s Karenin is a much more complex and sympathetic individual, rather than the villain he sometimes becomes.

But Wright sometimes gets a little too carried away with the extravagant visuals rather than really concentrating on the emotions at play and ultimately spreads himself too thin.

The camera-work and creative choices behind each scene eventually become diverting and, in turn, make you realise the lack of investment you have in the characters, especially the central romance between Anna and Vronsky that fails to resonate.

The ensuing film feels desperately lightweight and plods when it should really sweep you along. It’s an honourable failure, but a failure nonetheless.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 130mins
UK Release Date: September 7, 2012