Film review: I, Anna


Director: Barnaby Southcombe
Cast: Charlotte Rampling, Gabriel Byrne, Eddie Marsan, Hayley Atwell, Honor Blackman, Jodhi May, Bill Milner
Rating: (M)
3 stars (out of 5)
Photo supplied.
Photo supplied.
Favoured by students as the go-to genre for film projects and academic study, film noir wouldn't be the safest bet for a debut feature, especially when you cast your mum as the femme fatale. But that is what Barnaby Southcombe has courageously done and for the most part, I, Anna receives a highly commended.

Adapting Elsa Lewin's novel of the same name, Southcombe decided his mother, Charlotte Rampling, would be perfect in the role of Anna Welles.

Rampling, at 66, might raise a few eyebrows as a seductress, but once she dons an ever-present trench coat to show off a set of shapely pins, the pieces fall nicely into place.

The object of Welle's romantic interest is DCI Bernie Reid (Gabriel Byrne), an insomniac divorcee struggling to piece together a murder in a London apartment block. After a chance encounter close to the scene, Reid at first fails to connect Welles with the crime.

From snippets of Welles' flashbacks and a gradual layering of clues, we are primed to expect all is not as it seems.

Although, as deliberately obscure as Southcombe is with the finer points of Welles' muddled memory, there is enough interest in his stylised vision of inner-city London to keep you hanging in there to find out where the loose threads come together.

Add to that, the ease with which Byrne and Rampling romantically engage, and it's not too hard to suspend a bit of disbelief, brush off the odd red herring and get swept up in Southcombe's all-too-clever reveal.

Best thing: Honor Blackman's crafty cameo.

Worst thing: Being a little too "smart" for its own good.

See it with: Anyone old enough to remember Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore.

By Mark Orton.