Anna Review

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Anna (2013)

Cast: Mark Strong, Taissa Farmiga, Brian Cox
Director: Jorge Dorado
Country: USA | Spain | France
Genre: Drama | Thriller
Official Trailer: Here

Editor’s Note: Anna is now open in limited release and on VOD

When the memory-detective protagonist of Anna informs his eponymous charge, the sixteen year-old daughter of a wealthy family who’s suddenly refused to eat, that the movie’s chief technological conceit “doesn’t work like that”, it’s telling that he never offers an explanation as to how it does work. Don’t let the plot hole brigade fool you: all the average viewer asks of a film is that it follow some interior logic of its own; in resolutely refusing to set one out, Jorge Dorado’s debut deprives itself of first our trust, then our interest. It deserves neither, in the end: pondering the particularities of the plot is so inevitable a train of thought, of course, because nothing else here has the sway to hold our interest.

Writing team Guy and Martha Holmes, it’s no great surprise, haven’t a prior credit between them; their script doles out exposition as though it were the hottest commodity around, and they desperately keen to share the wealth.

anna_2014_2Least of all the trauma of our leading man, played with appreciable gravitas and a broken American accent by Mark Strong, whose scarcity of lead roles belies his worthiness of them. With its echoed sounds and grainy imagery, the fleeting flashback sequence he finds himself in intermittently is of such obvious aesthetic its emotional implications are impossible to appreciate. It sees him discovering his wife, a suicide, dead in the bath, lending the movie the dual motifs of blood and water it will go on to employ ad nauseam. This is Semiotics 101, psychology so simplistic you think he would see it himself. But he, of course, is the sort of brilliant mind who needs regularly to be told things that begin with the words “as you know…”

Writing team Guy and Martha Holmes, it’s no great surprise, haven’t a prior credit between them; their script doles out exposition as though it were the hottest commodity around, and they desperately keen to share the wealth. Not in the barest sense do their characters believably exist inside the plot’s parameters, never mind outside: only in its stray shades of Inception does the bereavement strand seem to earn any weight at all. But a director even on the level of Nolan is some way above Dorado, let alone that of Del Toro and Almodovár, with whom he worked as AD in the past. He had seemingly learned little from those talents, and never does his debut transcend the profound limitations of its script.

hat it’s not inefficient is perhaps the highest tribute that might be paid Dorado’s direction; with sweeping camera moves that arc to take in a conversation, his is work that serves the material to exactly the standard it deserves.

anna_2014_3Being as it is such a crux of the conceit, the memory aesthetic’s roteness is an enormous hurdle to have to overcome; exacerbated by the obviousness of the slow-motion approach he affords scenes of emotional imperative, it’s a film that’s terribly uneasy on the eyes at even the best of times. The score suits it well, in that event: overwrought to a point of exhaustion, it plays as a mix tape of blockbuster beats, lazily assembled with would-be Pavlovian precision. That it’s not inefficient is perhaps the highest tribute that might be paid Dorado’s direction; with sweeping camera moves that arc to take in a conversation, his is work that serves the material to exactly the standard it deserves.

The actors, for all their efforts, can’t do much more, and for all the bereaved gusto with which Strong tosses himself into the fray, his is a character so hopelessly underwritten that he can’t help but seem inexistent. Much more on-board with the ordinariness of the piece is Brian Cox, who has some fun playing with the possible villainy of his sideline figure. One need only have seen Blood—no great movie in itself—to appreciate the things this pair can do together; that film seems a masterpiece beside the bland banality of the dynamic here. Emergent actress Taissa Farmiga alleviates the burden every time she’s on screen; it can’t much hurt her young career to have a movie here she stands so tall above.

3.4 AWFUL

Anna doles out exposition as though it were the hottest commodity around.

  • 3.4
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About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.