BFI London Film Festival 2012: ‘I, Anna’ review


I, Anna (2012) director Barnaby Southcombe, son of actress Charlotte Rampling (who takes the lead role as a femme fatale in this, his feature debut), attempts to adapt Elsa Lewin’s novel of the same name in what is a disappointing thriller set in London’s Barbican. After a man is brutally murdered in his apartment, DCI Reid (a melancholic and dour Gabriel Byrne), is called to the scene. Barely sleeping and going through a difficult divorce, Reid walks the streets absorbing himself in his work until he meets Anna (Rampling), a lonely women desperately seeking love, currently resorting to tiresome singles nights.

Reid tracks her down and meets her at a night for middle-aged singles, but she denies all knowledge of having ever met him. Captivated by this strange yet beguiling women, Reid starts making morally questionable decisions with regards to the murder case, and over the course of a (relatively dull) 90 minutes, the mystery is eventually unravelled and solved. I, Anna was shot rapidly in just five weeks, and this quick turnaround certainly shows. The weak plot is predictable and the mysterious revelation lacking in any sense of true drama. Worse still are the weak attempts to establish an air of mystery, but which lacks any sense of pathos or true suspense.

Set for the most part in Barbican tower blocks, there is a strongly oppressive atmosphere with much of I, Anna taking place at night, which enhances the world-weariness of the characters. Yet ultimately, despite the best efforts from Rampling as the enigmatic Anna and the creased-collared, bedraggled Byrne as Reid, there is a sense that the cast are being incredibly underused in this drama that feels more appropriate for release on TV than warranting a cinematic release. Eddie Marsan puts in an enjoyable, though brief performance as Byrne’s superior, providing the most entertainment in what is a plodding, semi-procedural drama.

Whilst attempting to bring elements of European cinema and TV (most notably Nordic Noir) to the screen, Southcombe’s I, Anna fails to ever credibly establish an intense, mysterious and gripping atmosphere. In its attempts to provoke thought about middle age and the potential loneliness that period of life can bring, it only succeeds in creating a dull, grey portrait of lonely-hearts against the concrete backdrop of London’s East End. It also fails to utilise the architectural beauty of the Barbican complex and surrounding area.

Neither thrilling, entertaining nor particularly thought-provoking, Southcombe’s feature debut I, Anna only manages a weak imitation of the finer, twisting North European crime narratives found in hugely successfully series such as Wallander and The Bridge – two TV shows that are more entertaining than this cinematic trudge.

The 56th BFI London Film Festival runs from 10-21 October. For more of our LFF coverage, simply follow this link.

Joe Walsh