2012 / Shane Ryan.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Director Shane Ryan addresses some of society's taboos and explores them intelligently, without exploiting the issues. When viewed through the wrong eyes (ie conservative and/or fearful) his films are a feeding ground for condemnation and misunderstanding, however, an intelligent and socially concerned mind will see them much differently. MY NAME IS A BY ANONYMOUS is inspired by the story of Alyssa Bustamante, a 15 year old American killer who stunned the world when she brutally murdered her 9 year old neighbour for the simple desire to know what it felt like... if her name is not familiar, then her notorious image probably is. During her trial, questions of mental health and a volatile home-life are raised and these issues are what Shane Ryan has chosen to focus on in his chilling and subversive film. It would have been all too easy for Ryan to glamorize this story and being a no-frills independent film, it would have been beneficial to exploit it for notoriety sake. Instead Ryan attempts to peel away the shock value in search of an explanation... whether or not he finds one is for the viewer to decide. Rather than focusing on one teenage girl and her obsession with murder, the story depicts the lives of several teenage girls who each have emotional struggles and disconnections. By shifting the attention to a group of teens, rather than a lone killer, Ryan has effectively presented us with a confronting reflection of modern society and he explores issues that most parents would prefer to turn a blind eye too. Anorexia, domestic & sexual abuse and obsession with fame are the predominant themes in the film and all of the girls performing are excellent. Ryan has cast the film brilliantly and extracts sincere and powerful performances from all of the girls. Particularly good is the young girl who plays the victim. One scene with her, in particular, at a diner is mesmerising to watch. The conversation is so fluent and natural and gives you an honest fly-on-the-wall perspective. You forget that you're watching a film and find yourself totally invested in these characters. The style of MY NAME IS A BY ANONYMOUS is also to Ryan's credit. He is in total control and uses a variety of methods to tell his story. From actor-controlled hand-held footage to wider and well placed panning shots to really effective montage & fantasy sequences. It was these surreal elements that gripped me the most and gave me a connection with the protagonists. I reflected on my own teen years and thought about the fantasies I played out in my own mind and Shane Ryan somehow tapped right into that. Hollywood are the true exploiters with their dumbed down, sexualized and exaggerated depictions of teenage life and for the most part that's accepted as the norm. Shane Ryan's film subverts those Hollywood archetypes and strives to theorize a truer teenage culture that most adults would prefer to turn a blind eye to. I do think the film is stretched ever so slightly beyond necessity and would benefit from a tighter running time, but I can easily overlook this to allow a filmmaker the freedom to explore and experiment. Shane Ryan is a dangerous filmmaker for all of the right reasons.