Written and Directed by Dekel Berenson (also known for Ashmina and The Girls Were Doing Nothing), Anna (2019) follows aging single mother Anna (Svetlana Alekseevna Barandich), who lives in a war-torn Eastern Ukraine. Lured by a radio advertisement, she goes to a party with a group of American men who are touring the country, searching for love.
The cinematography from Vova Ivanov and the direction from Dekel Berenson were absolutely spectacular. Each shot was so beautifully composed that the director allowed the camera to simply linger on certain moments. There’s also a ton of scenes that are completely done in one shot. It creates the feeling that we are observing Anna’s life and eavesdropping on those moments. In nearly every scene both the dialogue and the acting is on point. One moment that stands out is when Anna is having a meet-cute with an American tourist, and they are translating eachother’s conversation through a translator since Anna doesn’t speak English. Not only did the conversation flow so well to the point the fact that it’s all a single take simply melts into the back of your mind, but the scene itself is both so incredibly funny but also very telling of the cultural differences between the two characters and what the translator’s true role is.
There was some really good acting, particularly from Svetlana Alekseevna Barandich as Anna, but some other standouts go to Anastasia Vyazovskaya as the Translator and Eric Ross Gilliatt as the American Anna meets. I think where the short falters is that we spend too much time wih Anna working at what appears to be a meat freezer. It is important that we see the mundanity of Anna’s life, but in the grander themes of the story her time at the butcher shop really has little payoff, outside of it’s where she first hears about the American tourists coming to the Ukraine. I think that there also could’ve been a little more time spent Anna’s daughter and caring about her and Anna’s relationship.
Verdict: 4 out of 5
Anna is an excellent short with beautiful direction and cinematography, a simple yet impactful story, great performances, and a really shocking conclusion. Outside of those two pacing issues, Anna is a really beautiful and culturally relevant story that I recommend checking out.