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Anna #MovieReview

A man with the ability to enter people’s memories takes on the case of a brilliant, troubled sixteen-year-old girl to determine whether she is a sociopath or a victim of trauma.

Release Date: 04-05-2014 | MPAA Rating: R | Runtime: 1 hr 39 mins | Directed by: Jorge Dorado | Starring: Mark Strong, Paolo Taissa Farmiga, Brian Cox

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Anna Review

Anna is a psychological thriller with a sci-fi edge about a “memory detective” using his powers to determine whether or not a teenage girl deserves to be institutionalized, apparently because being uncomfortably smart and a little callous is only praise-worthy in boys.

I honestly clicked on this movie thinking I was going into the 2019 release. In fact I ended up with a movie from 2014 I’d never heard of with a completely different plot. However in this one I got to watch Mark Strong in the lead role, so that helped things a little.

There are minor spoilers ahead. You have been warned.

Story

I was really hoping the sci-fi element of this movie was going to carry the plot, but it feels tacked on for the most part. Which is too bad because the premise beyond that is kind of stale. I feel like we’ve seen enough movies that ask “Is the kid freakishly smart or just a freak?”

Strong’s character was kind of interesting I guess, but in the way that any archetypical film noir protagonist would be. We know exactly what he’s about, what kind of traumas he has, and that he’s probably not going to change much by the end. I appreciated them tying his trauma into the sci-fi element at least, and really wish they had explored that more. Too bad his trauma is also an example of the “fridging” trope (killing a female character as backstory or character development for a male character, in case you didn’t know).

I also think putting the focus on a teenage girl like this hits several tropes in a bad way. It kind of feels like a witch hunt story, which we also don’t need more of, and the writing would have to be a lot better for it to be good in that way. It also hits the trope of really smart people being narcissistic and naturally a little creepy in the way they talk, which usually is just the way people who aren’t smart tend to write smart people when they want to feel better about not being smart (it’s always either that or the anemic nerd character, isn’t it?). And finally the way they wrote Anna as a smart person who is also a woman feels vaguely sexist in ways I’m not fully sure how to articulate but I’m sure women could easily explain what I’m getting at.

Spoiler: They also decide to make a major plot point the fact that someone had nude photos of Anna and tons of other schoolgirls, and there’s plenty to be said about that kind of plot point. But also at the last minute they throw in a massive montage of naked girls that were explicitly shown to be schoolchildren, which I’m pretty sure makes at least some of those images in-world child porn, and I’m not a fan of having that thrown in my face all of a sudden for any reason, much less for shock value.

All in all it’s kind of a bland story that feels like it came from about 20 years earlier than when it was released, and the look of the film strangely kind of matches that vibe too, come to think of it. But I’ll talk about that more in the production section. Besides that, I got bored way too easily and had to finish this movie over multiple sittings.

Acting

The story is melodramatic, so the performances are too, but that was the expectation so I don’t think you can blame the actors for it. Both Strong and Farmiga play archetypes bordering on stereotypes here, and they play them to the letter. So I guess good job? There are cringey moments but I’ve seen Strong in good roles so I figure it must’ve been him doing the best with what he was given.

Everything about this has felt pulpy so far, and the performances are no different. Nothing award-winning here, but it’s nothing unprofessional either (for the most part). I guess I could be judgy of Strong badly covering his accent. It’s not the worst American accent from a British accent that I’ve heard, but we’ll just say he gets better at it by the time he shows up in Shazam.

I am confused as to why baby Anna was apparently British though.

Production

I really wasn’t feeling the technical side of things on this film. I’m pretty sure it was shot in digital, but the artistic choice they made for showing when a scene was a memory was to slap an obviously fake amount of film grain onto the footage and blow out the highlights even more than they already were in the rest of the film, which is saying something. I’m not even one to notice things like that most of the time but it’s just so in your face. Maybe they were trying to make the film look surreal or dreamlike to go with the pyschological aspect, but it just came out as amateurish and distracting to me.

There are little things I could complain about but it would take up too much space. One that I have to point out is that in some places the edit doesn’t even look finished. There’s obviously missing pieces of sound design in a few spots.

Conclusion

Anna is not a terrible movie, but it’s not exactly good either. It’s pretty forgettable in my opinion, like a lot of the movies I dug out of the five-dollar DVD bin when I was a teenager. You could give this one a watch if there’s nothing else you feel like seeing, you like pulpy sci-fi detective stories in the vein of Robin Williams’ Final Cut, and you’ve got an hour and a half to kill.

Published inMovie ReviewsUnstarred Reviews

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