Some critics were left underwhelmed last year by Barnaby Southcombe’s debut feature I, Anna (2012), but this seductive modern British noir deserves to find an audience on DVD. Charlotte Rampling plays Anna, an enigmatic female who becomes embroiled in a murder case led by D.C.I. Bernie Reid (Gabriel Byrne). Reid falls hard for Anna, but his investigation into the crime leads him to suspect that the debonair saleswoman has a dark secret she’s unwilling to share. Although this brief synopsis may sound like the plot of your average ITV crime drama, both Rampling and Byrne elevate the piece into something far more complex and unsettling.
Rampling has always been on the fringes of true recognition, well-known but never quite achieving superstar status. Despite the odd notable turn in the likes of François Ozon’s Swimming Pool (2003), Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go (2010) and Lars von Trier’s Melancholia (2011), she has kept a low profile either through circumstance or design. Thus, I, Anna heavily relies on you being as enamoured by this great British actress as her son, writer-director Southcombe, clearly is.
You have to understand why Byrne’s character would pursue her and how you could so easily fall for this mentally fragile, but naturally seductive woman. If you’re not a little bit in love with Anna yourself, then Southcombe’s murder mystery may well appear to play out like just another run-of-the-mill whodunnit. If your interest is piqued, however, such personal emotional investment certainly gives the film that necessary added dimension. In addition, the always watchable Byrne does a fine job as the love-struck detective, with the scenes between himself and Rampling both realistic and touching.
As for the film’s director, Southcombe obviously has talent; although he could have ramped up the suspense and framed a few shots better, this is an impressive debut which he should be given the opportunity to build on. I, Anna will seduce some and leave others cold, and your own engagement could all hinge on to what extent you’re mesmerised by Rampling’s sparkling green eyes. If you’re locked in, this slice of contemporary British noir could well be a winner; if you’re not, you’d probably be better served elsewhere.
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