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 Rampling, 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 Byrne), 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 Brown) who attended the same dating event as Anna. The chief suspects are Stone’s son Stevie (Max Deacon) and his friend; petty crooks 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 it’s 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?”
Barnaby Southcombe based on the novel by Elsa Lewin
Charlotte Rampling, Gabriel Byrne, Hayley Atwell, Eddie Marsan, Jodhi May, Ralph Brown and Honor Blackman
1 hour 31 minutes
UK Release Date:
Friday 7th December