The Divorcee and the Detective
Barnaby Southcombe’s “I ,Anna” is about the lives of a beautiful divorcee and a troubled detective that intersect during the investigation of a vicious murder on streets of London that brings about a tangled web of passion, intrigue and deceit. The story is told from the perspective of a woman who is a key suspect and who also becomes an obsession for the investigating detective.
An absorbing film noir told from the perspective of an intriguing woman, a key suspect in a murder case, who becomes an obsession for the detective in charge of the investigation. I, Anna is a psychological film noir that not only stars veteran actor Charlotte Rampling, but is the directorial debut of her son, Barnaby Southcombe. Charlotte Rampling plays divorcee and mother Anna Welles, whom we see is living a comfortably middle-class life in a tiny apartment in London following the departure of her husband. Encouraged by her daughter Emmy (Hayley Atwell), she is trying her hand at singles party events in town. One night she meets the flamboyant and wealthy George Stone (Ralph Brown) and goes home with him.
We next see her, Anna is leaving his apartment block. Coming from the opposite direction is night owl Detective Bernie Reid (Gabriel Byrne). He has been called to the scene of a brutal murder that took place in the very apartment that Anna has left. Something clearly happened in that apartment, and it left Stone dead. It is not clear what went down, and how Anna is involved.
Reid notices Anna leaving, and is curious so he follows her to a singles party night where finally they meet. At first, Bernie conceals that he sees her as being connected to the case. The mutual attraction is instant, perhaps unsurprising given their similar, lonely existences. Anna seems not to remember or acknowledge that she was ever at Stone’s apartment. But as clues start to point towards Anna’s involvement in the murder, Bernie finds himself more and more compromised, and Anna’s deeply buried memories start to surface and overwhelm her. As Anna’s mind begin to coalesce, the viewer begins to piece things together as does Bernie and we learn what happened that night and what else Anna might be hiding, or hiding from.
Southcombe’s screenplay is based on the novel “I, Anna” by Elsa Lewin. a homage to film noirs where ambiguous and obsessive relationships are more of the concern than more technical procedural aspects. Noir stories tend to need cities as their playgrounds, and London is as much as star the film as are Byrne and Rampling. His camera movements, lighting and framing treat the city as if it were a neon-lit femme fatale too, coldly beautiful as the lens glides over her at night in glorious high definition. Southcombe has a sharp eye for intriguing locations that sometimes border on the outright gothic or expressionistic and the film is so that it is almost distracting.
Memories of her evening with George start to come back to Anna; however, it seems that she has an even darker secret to face. The thriller aspect is more psychological than procedural with an emphasis on Anna’s psychosis. As a murder mystery, Anna’s secret and the murder seem thrown together in a muddled script; however, things seem better if we see this as a romantic thriller with the emphasis on the relationship between Anna and Bernie.