Shane Ryan's My Name is A - By Anonymous is not for every moviegoer.
Let me repeat that again. It's NOT for every moviegoer.
It's a hard film to watch, even for a guy like me who has worked in the area of youth and violence for quite a few years. It's dark. It's intentional. It's pretty damn brutal. It's a challenging film about challenging subjects and it's relentlessly devoted to them.
Is it perfect? Nope.
It's pretty damn good, though.
Loosely inspired by the real life murder of nine-year-old Elizabeth Otten by her teenage neighbor Alyssa Bustamente, My Name is A- By Anonymous follows the murder of a nine-year-old girl by a group of four teenaged girls caught up in a California wasteland of hopelessness, despair, self-loathing and a whole bunch of other things we've basically thrust upon ourselves in a society where optimism becomes squelched and viral videos are a thing, reality television dominates the airwaves and hate-filled politicians actually have a chance of being elected.
Yeah, I said it.
The girls, sort of like was true with Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, are seemingly normal on the outside. You have no clue what's actually going on in their lives, though Ryan doesn't hesitate to show us ranging from bulimia to self-mutilation to sex, including the fact that two are being sexually abused by the men their moms are married to, and a whole lot of other stuff.
My Name is A - By Anonymous isn't so much about the Alyssa Bustamente case, but far more about how such a case manifests itself.
I can't stress enough that the film is difficult to watch. There's almost a voyeuristic feeling that one gets while watching everything unfold, a voyeuristic quality that makes it feel like we, the audience, may very well be an accessory to the crime.
Yeah, it's pretty disturbing.
The film is beautifully made and damn near impossible to ignore. If it were on any other subject, Ryan's film would likely have snagged a theatrical release as it's truly that well made. Teona Dolnikova's original score, she's also in the film, is jarring and hypnotic. Arturo Guerrero's lensing is dark and mesmerizing and disturbingly humane, while Ryan himself edits the film in a way that occasionally cuts at just the right moment and occasionally lingers to let everything sink in.
The folks at indie distributor WildEye Releasing picked up the film for release. It's a good outlet for the film as they've tackled difficult films with difficult subjects before. It'll be interesting to see how they market this one.
The ensemble cast is uniformly strong. Ryan's script and direction are unflinching in their honesty and somewhat exploitative relentlessness.
You may not like My Name is A - By Anonymous, but you sure as hell won't forget it.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic