A science-fiction love story can go either way. It could be a Passengers (2016) or it could be a About Time (2013), which may not be a true science-fiction movie, but it’s infused with time travel so we’ll call it what it is. Anya fits more in the vein of About Time, and that’s a good thing.
On its surface, Anya is about that most topical of contemporary issues, genetic modification. Often films that engage that “ripped from the headlines” scenario have a sensationalist bent, as they are as much exploiting the issue as they are illuminating it. Thankfully, Anya is not one of those films. Rather, it’s a thoughtful and nuanced exploration of a complex and provocative contemporary issue.
Now, normally, for a movie that features concept like this, you’d think it would rush out to get either a big name talent or a big Hollywood Director. Anya doesn’t do all that, but it never tries to be that. Anya, has a strong uniqueness to it, in the sense that no one in this movie is that familiar, and there was something fresh about that.
Anya is a contemporary sci-fi love story about a newlywed couple who turn to a scientist for help having a baby and find themselves at the center of a genetic puzzle with far-reaching implications and an ethically ambiguous solution.
The approach of the filmmakers, led by real life couple Jacob Akira Okada and Carylanna Taylor, focuses on the human drama as much as the ethical one. Their decision to present this documentary style, as a slice of life, is wise, as the emotional impact on the audience is decidedly enhanced. Placing people at the forefront of the hot button topic is vital to the film’s ability to engage the audience. What made this aspect of the film more impactful was the directors’ (Okada and Taylor) way of getting us so invested with the characters, mainly with Libby, Seymour and Marco. We care about these people, so their struggle with the decision of what to do next is real, not some abstraction. Further deepening matters, the film operates as a cutting-edge study of the modern science splicing, but also functions effectively as an examination of the immigrant experience, and the emotional challenge of remaining unassimilated and feeling like an alien in your adopted home.
One of the most crucial and wonderful elements that makes Anya standout is that it seamlessly blends science, love, and culture in a unique film experience that is really works in favor of its runtime. There are so many movies, not just in the midst of science-fiction, that try and do too many things all at once, and what we get is a jumbled mess. Anya touches on each theme individually during its 90 minute runtime, thereby making each theme a huge and thematic chunk of the movie, and also making them invisible characters for people to grasp onto with their thoughts and not their eyes. And the filmmakers do such a remarkable job of handling that in this movie, that maybe could have been stretched out a tad bit, but at the same time, it still felt natural and authentic within the time frame it was told.
Anya features some strong concepts, in particular the idea that part of a couple can’t have a baby due to that person being cursed or to where they originated from. And that’s something that doesn’t get explored in science-fiction movies, as of recently. Anya’s perfect pacing results in nothing being forced on the audience relative to that concept.
Overall, Anya is an extremely unique movie, one that offers a handful of concepts, yet still balances them all out very well. At the end of the day, it’s a fascinating experience. it’s engaging, and it knows how to keep investing with you with the characters and the concepts that it offers.
Available on DVD, VOD, and streaming services November 26th, 2019.
Final Score: 4 out of 5.