For a film set in Russia, it is pretty strange that all the characters have British accents. It becomes clear early on that authenticity and realism may not be high on director Joe Wright’s priorities. With Wright’s experience in the period drama genre being unquestionable after he has directed Pride & Prejudice and Atonement he was obviously a good choice to direct this piece and the visuals are very well done as you would come to expect from Wright.

Anna Karenina was originally a novel written by the famous Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. The story revolves around the title character as she begins to question her life, her happiness, her marriage and love itself. And these feelings start to cause some problems after Anna meets the determined Count Vronsky. At the time the novel was written the story itself contained strong political themes but in the modern world as a film this is something that we have seen before; most period dramas are just women in high societal positions having an affair and having to deal with it and more often than not Keira Knightley is involved in some way or another (here she plays the title character).

Knightley seems to be an expert of good performances that aren’t anything special and unfortunately her performance here is good at best, at times falling into the realms of averageness. Aaron Taylor-Johnson (as he is credited on the bill since his marriage to Nowhere Boy director Sam Taylor-Wood) has a great screen presence here and seems to light up the screen and drive the story forward every time he appears. It is great to see him playing a more established and older man than his roles in Kick-Ass and Nowhere Boy. Otherwise, the rest of the cast is pretty lacklustre in performance: Kelly Macdonald is pointless at best, Jude Law is good but I couldn’t help but feel like he was miscast, but Matthew MacFayden brings some comedy highlights to the film which is nice.

The first twenty or thirty minutes of Anna Karenina would lead you to believe that you were about to watch an actual masterpiece. The way that Anna Karenina is directed is as if it is a theatrical performance with scenes and sets being moved and people seeming to walk from one scene just straight into another. This was a very novel and creative way of doing things but it seemed as though everyone got bored with it and they decided against doing this half way through the film and that was largely disappointing. The characters aren’t well rounded really, there are hints at back story that we never really get to know and the lack of background that we are given makes it almost impossible for us to get to know or get to care about any of the characters. Eventually, I became so fed up and disheartened with the characters that I wondered if it was too much to ask for the writers to just include a nuclear bomb that would end the film there and then. I must state that this isn’t the actors fault, I think they managed to do a pretty decent job with what they were given. Just what they were given wasn’t all that good.

Interestingly though I found that the sub plot was a lot more interesting and I found the story to be more compelling than the main one, which is probably a bad thing. The sub plot revolved around Domhnall Gleeson’s and Alicia Vikander’s characters. It seemed to me as though these two characters had a better love story and a more believable connection to one another than the main relationship at the centre of this film. They only pop up every now and again and the sub plot has little to no effect on the main storyline so it does seem pointless and takes up time in a film that suffers because of it’s running time.

Anna Karenina is good in places but unfortunately very bad in others.

My Rating: 5/10.

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