Starring: Charlotte Rampling, Gabriel Byrne, Hayley Atwell
You may like this if you liked: Shadow Dancer (James Marsh, 2012), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Tomas Alfredson, 2011), any moody British TV crime drama
D.C.I. Bernie Reid (Byrne) is a middle aged burnt out London cop living a lonely existence. A murder investigation leads his path to cross with that of Anna Welles (Rampling) a lonely middle aged divorcee and he becomes fascinated by her. As he investigates deeper into the case and gets to know Anna better their damaged psyches find solace in one another but also lead to some darker revelations about both of them.
Though perhaps a noir crime thriller by genre I, Anna has at its heart very strong characters depicting the raw emotions we can all relate to. There appear to be many underlying themes of the vulnerability we all can feel produced by feelings of loneliness, loss, trust and suspicion. It is this emotional core to the narrative which makes this film such a compelling and involving drama. Though the main plot is the solving of a murder and the various twists and turns, this story alone is actually quite weak and would make for quite an unmemorable film. However it is the human themes of the film that dominate the entire narrative which appear to be more the subject of the film and this adds emotional depth. Though some of the plot twists are pivotal to elements of the character’s fractured psyches, what troubles these characters feels like a more central element of the film producing a very human drama. The direction, camerawork and cinematography emphasises these themes very effectively.
Living in a city like London can be a very lonely experience and the city has never looked more miserable on film than in I, Anna. The main setting is the Barbican and the grey cinematography along with the dominating high rise architecture of this modern and middle class part of London mirrors the emotions of the characters adding genuine atmosphere. It feels like the murder mystery element is there primarily as a tool to drive the narrative forward as we all know who did it, but the bigger questions are why they did it and why they found themselves in that situation in the first place.
Unfortunately there are crime thriller elements thrown in that for me didn’t work. There is a subplot involving some of the other characters from the murder victim’s life. I do not want to go into too much detail but it is never clear as to why they appear at all and the fact these characters disappear completely from the narrative with no real explanation is a little frustrating. Their involvement poses questions that never really get answered and if perhaps they are there as red herrings then it just does not work and provides an unnecessary distraction. It is obvious from very early on who the murderer is (or at least I thought so) and so the police discovery of the actual murderer is never a real source of intrigue for the viewer. The whole flashback structure feels a little too contrived and clichéd and so what could have also proved to be a good compelling crime drama fails and is thankfully saved by what lies at the actual heart and soul of the story.
Well made and acted, I, Anna is a deeply involving and humane drama. Do not expect crime drama style dramatic twists, but a film with genuine heart and emotions we can all relate to using the locations for great emotional impact.