Indie Review: I, ANNA starring Charlotte Rampling & Gabriel Byrne


I must say that the main draw for me to this film is are the pairing of Charlotte Rampling and Gabriel Byrne. As it turns out, the casting remains to be the strongest thing about this film from newbie director Barnaby Southcombe, who happens to be Rampling’s own son.

The film opens with the protagonist Anna, a beautiful but lonely divorcee living with her daughter and granddaughter, on yet another singles night event. There’s a humorous exchange in the ladies room between Anna and an older lady who happens to be Honor Blackman (a.k.a. Bond’s Pussy Galore!) We later learn that her daughter has been encouraging her to get out there and meet someone new. The two seems to have a friendly relationship but at the same time there’s a certain distance I can’t put my finger on, but then again, Anna is such a mysterious figure and continues to be as the film progressed.

Her story is interwoven with a pending murder case, which is where Detective Bernie Reid (Byrne) comes in. Reid is an insomniac dealing with his own relationship problems, in fact he’s living in a hotel since his marital separation. So when the two lost souls meet, it seems inevitable that they’d somehow connect later on. They meet by chance, in the elevator of the building where the murder case happens, and for a while, it seems nothing more than a coincidence. Or is it?


As a slow-burn mystery, the film does work in keeping us in suspense, or at least in a state of curiosity, as the truth of what’s happening is slowly revealed in a series of hazy vignettes. At times the film plays like a procedural TV episode with the cops getting a lead on the suspects, etc. though the notion that ‘things are not what it seems’ plays out in a rather predictable way.

As I said before, the strength of this film is in the performances. Rampling and Byrne both brought their A-game to this film. Byrne is appropriately grizzled as a jaded detective who’s clearly smitten by this mysterious woman. It’s always a delight to watch the talented Irish thespian on screen, though this isn’t his best role by any stretch. The star of the film is definitely Rampling—who was 66 when she made this film. She still looks perfectly believable as a femme fatale, her steely gaze and seductive smile are contrasted by a palpable vulnerability. She carries the role with absolute conviction right down to the emotional finale. Though I never quite warmed up to Anna, she was certainly captivating to watch. Hayley Atwell is completely wasted as Rampling’s daughter, however. It’s a shame that she wasn’t given hardly anything to do here, and neither was Eddie Marsan as another detective working on the case.

Sometimes a certain expectations can greatly affect how we feel about a film and this is one of those occasions. The plot synopsis that reads like this “A noir thriller told from the point of view of a femme fatale, who falls for the detective in charge of a murder case.” Boy, that just sounds so juicy, and yes the film seems to have the elements of a noir, right down to the classic trench coat of the protagonist. I also appreciate the fact that a mature woman, and not just some pretty young thing, is at the center of the story. Alas, the idea of this film ends up being far more riveting than the film itself.

Though I didn’t know that this was Southcombe’s feature film debut, I kind of sense that from the way this film was directed. The pacing was much too slow for my liking and whilst the atmospheric cinematography style was intriguing at first, I felt like it was overdone, perhaps to cover up its thin plot. I suppose it’s still worth a watch if you’re a fan of the noir genre, I just wish it could’ve been a lot more compelling given the cast involved.

3 out of 5 reels

Have you seen this one yet? Well, what did you think?

28 thoughts on “Indie Review: I, ANNA starring Charlotte Rampling & Gabriel Byrne

  1. 3 stars is still pretty good but it’s a shame that the film wasn’t better. I like what you said about expectations. I find that to be so true. It makes it tougher when a movie doesn’t meet them.

    1. Expectations is a funny thing n in this one it actually did a disservice to the film. I still enjoy the performances tho, so at least Rampling n Byrne didnt disappoint.

  2. Both are great actors so that is enough to intrigue me, I don’t mind film noir either serious films once in a while I will watch so I will keep an eye out for this one. thanks for the heads up as you always find interesting films as I am way behind on my film watching.

    1. It’s not quite electric but definitely a charming pair, it’s amazing that Rampling still looks good with Byrne who’s at least 10 yrs younger. Yeah bummer about Atwell, i like her a lot!

  3. I might watch this when it’s streaming on Netflix. The cast looks good, even if the film could be better. And 3/5 isn’t too bad, so I might give it a look.

    1. Yeah, but I guess it’s understandable given it’s Barnaby’s first effort, and a noir is always intriguing to watch. The cinematography is quite beautiful to see on the big screen Chris.

  4. PrairieGirl

    Would love to see Byrne and Rampling together. I like Byrne in History channel’s Vikings… he looks great with long hair 🙂

    1. Hi Becky! I haven’t been able to see any of the Vikings episodes but yeah Byrne is a gorgeous man no matter what hairstyle. I like his look in this film w/ a five o’clock shadow and a bit of a disheveled, messy [sexy] hair 😉 But Rampling is simply STUNNING for being in her mid 60s!

    1. There’s still a video rental shop where you live?? I hardly come across one these days, ahah. There are a bunch of red boxes though, it’s a vending machine for dvd rentals 😀

        1. Wow, that’s very interesting. Yeah I’d think the indie cinema would benefit most from it. I never go to a brick & mortar store anymore, too much hassle, ahah.

  5. Sorry it has taken me so long to respond to your review, Ruth, but I was busy working my way through this film and my reaction to it–and then writing my own review:

    I finally got to see this on DVD after waiting for 3 years since it was first announced. And for me the wait was worth it. You might expect that, as the owner of a website devoted to Gabriel Byrne, I would wax rhapsodic over this movie but, as it turns out, I did not have to worry about any “conflict of interest” because I fell in love with Barnaby Southcombe’s film.

    He took a book and turned it into his own story. And I loved that story. I loved the theme of redemption that ran through it and I loved the mystery that got the story going. I watched the film twice and then listened to the commentary with Southcombe, the writer/director, and his mother, Charlotte Rampling, and I was enthralled by both the film and their comments.

    I thought Byrne and Rampling were both brilliant BUT they served this vision that Southcombe had conceived and THAT is what I responded to.

    This is no juicy film noir. This is a story about memory and tragedy and the terrible fact of isolation in the modern world. Sure, it is told within the familiar confines of a police procedural, to some extent, but that is just the environment they are living in. What really matters is the connection the two characters–Anna and Bernie–finally achieve.

    I hope film fans will watch this work and give it the attention it deserves. It is an extraordinary first film from a director who knows what he wants to say–but it is not easy or quick or available to you if you are not willing to give it time and thought. Like a good old time noir, it requires attention and thoughtfulness on our part.

    I am not being paid to say this and I would not say this if I did not truly feel it. I’m just a blogger like you, Ruth, and I appreciate the opportunity you provide for me to share my thoughts here. Thanks!

    1. Hi Stella! I’m thrilled that this film meets (or exceeds) your expectations as you’ve waited for it for so long. I really wanted to LOVE this film but the way it is, I simply couldn’t. I appreciate it though, don’t get me wrong, and I’m glad I got to see it on the big screen but I don’t think it connected with me for whatever reason.

      I think the description of this film kind of does a disservice to the film as it DOES sound like a juicy noir, that’s why I mentioned about the expectations thing. Still I only have good things to say about Byrne and Rampling as you can see. I’m sorry if you’re disappointed with my review but I have to be true to my impression of the film, regardless who is in it. Thanks anyway for your thoughts.

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