A black and white image of a woman in a black pantsuit in a sea of other women in greyscale scrubs faces the opposite way of them.

Slamdance Film Review: Anna’s Feelings

Film Reviews

Slamdance Film Review: Anna’s Feelings
Director: Anna Melikyan

Premiere: 1.21

In the fashion of John Travoltas 1996 Phenomenon, a simple and unassuming chocolate factory worker slips and hits her head while walking home one day. The next night, she becomes an automatic writer for an ancient alien civilization. Through her, the aliens warn us that we have ten years to love one another and figure our shit out or we’re donezo. Yes, that will be all, folks!

The film’s setting is a bleak one, and not just because of its greyscale aesthetic. It’s a futuristic Russia where a deadly and ever-mutating virus (sound familiar?) is wiping out a hearty chunk of Earth’s population. Masks and sanitation gasses are a requirement everywhere you go, whether clocking in at work or just catching a ride home on a bus. A planetary alignment event creates a type of “launch window” that only happens every 20 years, making it easier for humans to travel to Mars. Humanity is racing against the clock to get in on that window, to begin colonizing space and escape the consequences of our actions on Earth. 

One night while drunk, our main character Anna—played by the incredibly talented Anna Mikhalkova (Svyaz, About Love)—decides to finally share her little secret with the world and delivers the message that this alien civilization wants us to hear, through a reading of her automatic writings on video. She predicts certain news events that establish her credibility and not only projects her into stardom, but ultimately contributes to her own personal downfall. With such a premise, there’s a lot of places Anna’s Feelings could go. What I was expecting was not nearly as deep or as thought-provoking as what I received at the end of the film’s 129 minute runtime. 

Writer-director Anna Melikyan (Troe, Mermaid) masterfully balances the heaviness and often humorous aspects of the film, pairing beautifully with shots by Nikolai Zheludovich (Grace, Pigeon’s Milk). Together, the two create a visually stunning film that touches on something that I believe to be a universal truth that isn’t often discussed: What is one thing we need at the end of this life? The answer is a simple one: To be loved and to be needed by others, and to love and need them back. To be seen not just for what we are, but for all that we can be. As ego-bruising as it is to say it out loud, it’s something all people crave—something we all need to survive and make our lives feel as if they have worth and validity. It’s human nature, baby!

Anna’s Feelings poses an interesting question in relation to this. What happens to a person who experiences a massive wave of love and desideratum all at once after a seemingly unassuming and unimportant existence? What happens when it’s all taken away in a matter of minutes? 

Anna’s feelings are our own and the more you sit and think about them, those of our planet as well. While by no means a perfect film, nor a totally original one, Melikyan’s thought-provoking and allegoric writing paired with Mikhalkova’s heartbreaking and magnetic performance make it one that stands out, and one that I believe will stand the test of time. –Alliyah Uribe

Read more of SLUG‘s comprehensive coverage of the 2024 Slamdance Film Festival.