I, Anna Movie Review
Even though this British mystery-drama is rather too creepy for its own good, it gives Rampling yet another superb character to sink her teeth into. She's working with her son, writer-director Southcombe, who reveals the plots secrets very slowly, manipulating the audience by withholding key details and misleading us with red herrings. But Rampling makes it gripping.
She plays the eponymous Anna, who is trying to get her life back on track after the end of her marriage. Living with her single-mum daughter (Atwell), Anna attends speed-dating events to meet men, and one night goes home with George (Brown), who turns up dead in the morning. Police detective Bernie (Byrne) connects Anna to the death and secretly gets to know her without telling her that she's a suspect. Meanwhile, Bernie's colleague Kevin (Marsan) follows the trail to a mother and son (May and Deacon). And as clues begin to emerge, Anna starts to remember what happened that fateful night.
Southcombe cleverly creates an eerie tone that often makes this feel like a horror movie. So before he gives us any real details about what's going on here, we already know that something very nasty is involved. The problem is that he dribbles the truth to us so slowly that we lose interest in the plot long before the actual revelations. Which makes it all feel like a cheat when he pulls the rug out, since the filmmaker has been lying to us all along.
Even so, Rampling is magnetic on screen, making us feel like voyeurs watching her quietly prowling through each setting. Some of her scenes are squirmingly awkward, which only heightens this atmosphere. And her interaction with both Atwell and Byrne is intriguingly tentative, bristly and tender, sometimes all at the same time. Everyone looks so haunted by something in their past that we can't help but be interested in where they end up. So it's frustrating that the film's achingly slow pace lets us see the gaping holes in the plot, as well as the over-engineered twists and turns that leave us rolling our eyes in exasperation.