Barnaby Southcombe’s I, Anna is a self-professed “film noir with European sensibility”, citing both American and European cinema as its main influences. Its source material is based on the novel of the same name by Elsa Lewin, a New York psychoanalyst. I, Anna sees Southcombe collaborate for the first time with his mother, critically acclaimed actress Charlotte Rampling, who stars as Anna Welles, an enigmatic but troubled divorcée.
Anna finds herself attending tedious middle-aged singles nights with no luck until she meets George Stone (Ralph Brown). After Anna spends the night with him, she awakens to find herself with a fractured wrist. Meanwhile Detective Chief Inspector Bernie Reid (Gabriel Byrne) is called to a murder scene in the Barbican Estate, where he finds 46-year-old George Stone dead in his flat.
The film proceeds to take the noir route, where the morally ambiguous detective falls for the chief murder suspect. But what I, Anna attempts to do differently is allow Anna, the assigned femme fatale, to become the film’s protagonist, unlike the classic noir structure where we are often unaware of the femme fatale’s story.
While I, Anna employs a refreshing role-reversal in terms of its protagonist, the movie seems confused in its storytelling method. This is seemingly due to its struggle with integrating a noir-like plot, leading to what attempts to be a Polanski/Bergman-influenced twist ending, but turns out more like the common obvious modern Hollywood variation.
Amid this muddle we come across a terribly orchestrated sub-plot of London street crime, evoking themes found in recent releases like Adulthood and Ill Manors. This fails simply due to its poor and sometimes laughably scripted dialogue.
Although the dialogue is at times bland, the cast occasionally shines through. Rampling and Byrne are not as powerful as we have seen them before, but remain solid throughout and are assisted by an excellent supporting cast: Ralph Brown’s short stint as George is admirable, as well as Eddie Marsan’s excellent performance as Inspector Franks.
By accident, I, Anna becomes a faithful remake of Fritz Lang’s The Blue Gardenia with a Sixth Sense outcome: mildly interesting, but lacking overall.
Watch the trailer for I, Anna here