Monday, April 7, 2014

DIFF 2014 Review: ANNA - Javi's Take


Directed by: Jorge Dorado
Written by: Guy and Martha Holmes
Starring: Mark Strong, Taissa Farmiga, Bryan Cox, Indira Varma, and Noah Taylor
Synopsis: When a "memory" detective is assigned to help out a young girl, not everything is as it seems.

Futuristic elements in movie have a tendency of overtaking the story and characters in factor of spectacle. While this usually applies to summer blockbusters, a lot of smaller indies have fallen into that trap. However, ANNA is not one of those movies. Sure, it has a fantastical set up, being set in a near future where people have been able to "read" other people's memories in order to solve crime. The movie uses that as a conceit to explore the psychological struggle of a mourning man and troubled teenage girl.

Mark Strong, in his first lead role(!), plays John, a memory detective that's been out of commission after having a stroke during a memory read. He comes back to work and is given what is supposed to be the very easy assignment of making a young girl, Anna, stop her hunger strike. As he delves deeper into her memories, he discovers that there's much more going on that what is originally thought.

Visually, this movie is stunning, switching between dark grays in the real world to the bright colors once you get to Anna's room where she paints all the time. When John goes into the dreams, the movie has a different filter altogether, which makes it visually easier to know where you are in terms of reality. There's also some innovative editing during the memory sequences, such as when John's focus is lost and he transitions to his own memories.

What made this a great film is how it subverts thriller cliches and uses it to constantly keep you guessing as to whose motives are what and what the truth really is. The movie also wastes no time in establishing the rules of the memory world all way subtly breaking them without big fanfare, further adding to the suspense of the movie.

With ANNA, you have two very troubled characters, and this movie explores all of their issues making a compelling thriller that sets the bar high in director Jorde Dorado's future. Him being a first time director is impressive because the movie looks and feels like it was made by a veteran. The performances that he is able to get out of the leads is part of what makes the movie a must-see.

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