Anna

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Anna Movie Poster Image
Twisty "memory" thriller is too uneven to be memorable.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 99 minutes

A lot or a little?

Parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

It's not necessarily a positive message, but the movie's lesson is that memories, while extremely powerful, aren't foolproof. People can delude themselves and provide false memories that they believe to be true. Determining guilt or innocence based on memory is difficult, because people don't always remember things exactly as they happened.

Positive role models & representations

Not many positive role models, but John is determined to help Anna even when others tell him she's beyond help, and John's boss, Sebastian, seems genuinely concerned with his well being.

Violence

Violent acts are shown several times: the protagonist's wife's suicide, which occurred in a bathtub (she's shown lying dead in a bloody pool of water); the memory of a brutal attack; another memory that shows that a girl might have been molested by a Mindscape therapist; the poisoning of a group of girls, who end up choking up blood and passing out (it's later revealed two of them died); a man who believes he's seeing the blood of a murdered patient; authorities going over their version of what happened during an alleged crime; a woman being pushed off a ledge and sustaining multiple injuries.

Sex

Nudity in photographic form: A man realizes that there are dozens of sexual photos of naked or nearly naked young women on his computer. In flashbacks, a man is briefly shown having sex with a maid. A young woman's inappropriate relationship with her teacher is discussed (although it's never made clear how sexual the relationship was beyond some touching and "artistic"/semi-nude photos of her found on his laptop), as is her possible transference with a memory detective (she calls him "cute," embraces him, gives him drawings, and tells him he's the only person she trusts).

Language

Occasional strong language includes one "f--king," plus "s--t," "a--hole," and "bitch."

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

Adults drink, and a man is asked "are you drunk?" by a friend (he's not). A mother is known to be an alcoholic and is shown intoxicated and upset. The same woman takes prescription drugs, and her mentally ill daughter is given prescription drugs (including a sedative).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Anna is an indie psychological thriller set in a near future where trained people can investigate others' memories to see whether they're telling the truth. The Inception-meets-Minority Report story includes one scene in which a man looks at nude photos of young women that someone else has downloaded on his computer. Other than that, the violence (a couple of scenes, including a suicide aftermath, are bloody but not graphic), language (occasional "s--t," one "f--king," "a--hole"), and sexual innuendo (one brief sex scene, references to an inappropriate student-teacher liaison) are on par with most teen-targeted thrillers. Still, given the mind-bending, often unreliable depiction of events, Anna is best saved for mature teens and adults.

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What's the story?

In the near future, society has come to accept a technological and psychological innovation that allows certain trained individuals to enter others' dreams to see whether they're telling the truth about events or situations. Called "remote viewing," the ability is carried out by memory investigators employed by Mindscape, a company run by Sebastian (Brian Cox), a leading psychiatrist. Sebastian asks his grieving employee, John (Mark Strong), whose wife committed suicide, to help on a "simple case": Sixteen-year-old ANNA (Taissa Farmiga) is the daughter of wealthy parents who don't know whether to commit her or keep her at home. They want John to figure out exactly what her role was in the mysterious poisoning of her boarding school classmates. As John starts to remotely view Anna's memories, he doubts their authenticity, but he can't seem to figure out whether she's telling the truth or manipulating him.

Is it any good?

As a psychological thriller, Anna's (it was originally titled Mindscape) premise is compelling. A genius teenager with haunting eyes could be a psychopath or could be the victim of both a cleverer classmate's plan and her rich parents' neglect. Add in an emotionally damaged investigator trying to avoid commingling his own drama with his client's, and you've got the makings of an interesting story. But the filmmakers keep throwing in too many distractions, sub plots, and possible theories and scenarios that get so little follow-through that it's obvious they're red herrings.

Mark Strong, like Tom Hiddleston, is a wonderful English actor who's deserving of more lead roles instead of just playing wicked baddies. And it's a pleasure to see that Farmiga can match her sister Vera's soulful eyes and evocative acting style. But overall, this suspense-filled thriller is just intriguing and well acted enough to make you wait for the big reveal but messy enough to make you wish that you'd sat through a better twisty thriller.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Anna's violence. How did it affect you? Was it disturbing? Did the fact that it takes place in a memory give it more or less impact?

  • Do you agree that memories can be false or almost wishful thinking? Why do you think people alter their memories?

  • Was it necessary to show the nudity in the scene that includes it? If the nude photos hadn't been shown, do you think the movie would be appropriate for slightly younger teens? Why or why not?

  • What are some other movies that play with memories or dreams? How does this one compare?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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