Anna (2013) – By Kirsten Walsh

“In the near future or an alternate reality, there are memory detectives, people who have the ability to enter other peoples’ electronically aided memories. They often are used to resolve psychological conflicts, and sometimes to exonerate someone from a crime. John was at one time the top in this field but he has been recovering from the death of his wife, and a stroke. To get back into work the head of the small firm he works for offers him what is supposed to be a simple job, getting 16 year old Anna to start eating again. However, the “simple job” turns into his most challenging.”

First of all, this new fad of somewhat off-kilter-reality films seems to be taking the abstract horror world by silent storm. Films such as “Stoker”, “Orphan”, and “Anna”; films that grant an almost super power to the characters, these are films that foretell the future of cinema. Well shot, well designed, and well laid out, “Anna” is a film that oozes cerebral integrity and fascination, but it does try a little too hard. While this is definitely a film for a fan of heavy dialogue and massive subtext within that, it is quite a fine film, and one that could push Mark Strong’s career even further (as if he needed it).

This slow burning film opens with a full setting of the scene, a dream sequence that lets us into John’s life (played by Mark Strong) and misery, and then right into the main story- John getting the assignment of attempting to get a young girl on a hunger strike to eat- Anna (played by Taissa Farmiga). The incredible science of slipping into people’s minds, which John is able to do, is explained in a Shakespearean style news monologue in the opening and fills the audience in on the “memory detectives”. With Mark deployed to Anna’s house, he sets forth to end her hunger strike and return to his dreary existence, all the while being encouraged by his boss Sebastian (played by Brian Cox). It is a tricky path he walks, but one he does with no question. A man with nothing to lose.

The casting in this film is extraordinary. Mark Strong is definitely an actor who can carry a leading role with strength and grace, vaguely reminiscent of Liam Neeson to me. His candor in this film definitely sets him apart from the rest of the cast, with his low toned voice and calculated movements. Taissa Farmiga, a blossoming actress heavily featured in the “American Horror Story” franchise, does a fine job playing a very difficult character that balances a line of sanity and the craziness. With the emotions being heightened in the overall scheme of the film, the actors do an excellent job at drawing the tension and suspense out. At certain points however, the drama did ooze with a little too much, especially in Strong’s acting. In one scene where he speaks to a woman in the hospital, he pauses much like William Shatner during his sentences: “Look….I….hope you get better soon.” It wasn’t intentional I’m assuming, and I’m sure there was supposed to be a moment of thought and sadness, but it came across pseudo-comical.

The production design is of course beautiful, after all, the film shot in Barcelona! Anna’s family house is what looks to be a historical mansion. Of course, Anna is supposed to come from a family of millionaires. While this would set many audiences apart, it plays as a voyeuristic look into the 1% of the US. The downfall of a seemingly perfect family is too hard to resist. From the costuming to the delicate props, everything looks to be in perfect place. John’s simplistic grey and brown toned suits, Anna’s light pink house coat, her subdued school girl uniform. An eery tone of color is laid over the film, once again harkening towards films like “The Sixth Sense” and “Stoker”. Strong blues, greys, reds and greens stand out, while beiges, light pinks, and yellows are dull to the eye, including the skin tones. This maintains an out of sorts reality, where something just isn’t right.

But like any film, there are issues within its structure. The film doesn’t convince the audience of Strong’s position as a “memory detective”. A psychic who tips into other people’s memories. The science is remarkable, much like that in “Minority Report”, or “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, but in this film, it is glossed over to make way for the tragic quality of the story. Showing only John as the “memory detective” we are supposed to accept leaves the audience wondering if there truly are others, or if it is just like it is in today’s reality, where psychics who approach the police to assist on cases are mostly considered jokes. Of course, this questioning leads into a mind warping ending, but remains weak throughout the bulk of the film.

Ultimately, this film is one that is to be enjoyed in the moment and story of watching it, and to ponder after it is complete, but not necessarily to stay as a mainstay for suspense or horror cinema. A vehicle for the actors and the filmmakers behind the camera (this is director Jorge Dorado’s first feature venture), but will most likely fall under the aforementioned films that struck the chord with the audience a bit stronger.

Would I watch this film again? Most likely not. I admire Mark Strong as an actor, and definitely enjoyed seeing him tackle this challenging role, but once the film has been seen once, it worked enough for me.

“Anna” is out on VOD currently for you to enjoy! You can find out more on the IMDb Page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1715336