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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.16.12] United Kingdom thriller mystery

Barnaby Southcombe may be new to feature film work but the young director has had plenty of experience in TV and that experience certainly shows in his debut I, Anna.

Adapted from Elsa Lewin's novel of the same name, the movie starts Charlotte Rampling as the titular Anna, an older woman trudging along daily life in London where she lives with her daughter and granddaughter in a one bedroom flat. Her daughter Emmy (Hayley Atwell) encourages her mother to get out and meet new people and Anna reluctantly complies, joining speed dating and mingling evenings. After meeting a man she fancies at one particular outing, she agrees for a drink at his place, a drink that ends with both of them knocked out and Anna waking up the next morning next to a dead body before running out of the apartment with no indication of what happened.

I, Anna is far from linear storytelling. Over the course of the movie's running time we see the entire story unfold. Anna's fate as it is intertwined with police officer Bernie Reid (Gabriel Byrne), the now dead man she met at the dating night and perhaps most importantly, her relationship with her daughter. The red herrings aren't immediately apparent but once the story reaches the tipping point it's immediately clear that Southcombe has very carefully balanced a story that works both on first viewing as a movie full of twists and on subsequent viewings as a clever bit of puzzlework.

The performances from Byrne and Eddie Marsan are both good, particularly Marsan who, as per usual, stands out in even the smallest of roles, but this is the Rampling show and she forges ahead with a an excellent performance which is part femme fatale and part insecure woman dating for the first time in decades. The combination is difficult to pull off especially considering the dual parts of Anna's life, but Rampling more than matches the challenge, at points exuding a sexual energy that is difficult to ignore while at others coming across as an overwhelmed teenager with first date jitters.

There are a few too many coincidences and the way in which the characters are connected to the mystery at the centre of I, Anna, a mystery that eventually unravels Anna's entire life, is far too convenient but it's a slight complaint about a movie that keeps the tension building until the final moments; it keeps the mystery alive until the very final scene.

Beautifully captured by Ben Smithard in a stark, often clinical manner with the occasional break, the visual queues in Anna's apartment, Reid's hotel room and the police station are notable against the rest of the movie's stark appearance, and a great moody score by K.I.D., I, Anna is a well paced thriller with excellent re-watch value and a great debut from a talented new director.

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