Anne+: The Film is a Dutch-language Netflix Original film following the first two seasons of the same-titled crowdfunded web series-turned-hit television show. Valerie Bisscheroux directs the movie and Maud Wiemeijer, Valerie Bisscheroux, and star Hanna van Vliet write it. Anne (van Vliet) has been on a journey for the past two years. She thought she’d really discovered herself. Finding her queer identity, coming out, finishing school, getting a job, and so forth. She’s been through a number of relationships in that time, some more serious than others, but with Sara (Jouman Fattal), she thinks she’s finally got it figured out just right. Except that Sara just moved to Montreal and Anne is in the middle of finishing writing her book, is in love with her amazing friends, and isn’t so sure she wants to leave.
You could theoretically watch Anne+: The Flim without having watched the first two seasons of the show. And frustratingly, you may have to, as it’s not currently easily available to watch in the U.S. But having the rich context for all the precedes the film is pretty invaluable. The movie gets its name from the naming convention each episode uses: ie “Anne + ____” with the blank being a different relationship in Anne’s life and the center of the episode. This is important context because it tells you who Anne is at the start of the movie. She’s somebody who is constantly living her life in relation to other people. Not just simply living it for herself.
The movie starts with what feels at first like a little bit of a character growth retraction. It took Anne two seasons to get to a place where she’s quit her bad job, loving life and her partner, and feeling good about herself generally. So when suddenly she’s reverted back to her old poor communication habits and being closed off, I was a bit disappointed. You shouldn’t have to reset a character’s growth just to give them a new set of problems to overcome. But it turns out, that’s not what’s happening here at all. Anne+: The Film is far smarter than that.
What’s actually happening, is that we’re watching a character we already think we know and love so well come to realize something is wrong. It’s painful, it’s exciting, it’s as full of anxiety as it is great sex, and it’s freeing. By luring the audience into believing everything was finally working out perfectly, when the bubble bursts, it hits really hard. Anne+ is full of so many breakups and hard moments, but with Fattal as her foil and newcomer Thorn Roos de Vries as Lou to offer Anne an entirely new perspective, together with van Vliet, the cast delivers amazing chemistry and tension. It’s rife with all the mixed emotions that these journies of self-discovery contain, all at once. For a show that began on the most basic of lesbian stereotypes and puppy love, it’s evolved into a nuanced exploration of identity and self-expression. Anne didn’t revert, we just got as comfortable in her current state as she was. She deserved more and the movie expertly delivers this sudden realization through this tumultuous character journey. I just wish it could have gone a little farther.
I don’t think that Anne+: The Film could take that theme any farther, to be clear. Not without further seasons of the show, which itself feels like it would potentially adulterate the movie’s ending somewhat. But for as much as the movie is filled with great characters, moments, sex scenes, and growth, all smartly written and well-portrayed, it feels like it just ended too quickly. The climax happens with 20 minutes remaining and then offers all of its rollercoaster of a resolution in that little remaining time. It is perhaps intentionally left not entirely fulfilled, because the whole theme of the series is that one can’t just expect their purpose to be suddenly found and fulfilled. But nonetheless, I’m left feeling more empty than I wanted this cheerful and hopeful ending to leave me feeling.
I think that, above all, it’s simply because for as much as I adore Anne and her friends, it feels so out of reach. There’s a very brief line that perhaps unintentionally calls to the forefront the immense privilege Anne has. She’s white, makes enough money, has an abundantly accepting family and amazing set of friends. Any hardship she endures has a very soft landing. Even when the show discusses struggles, they’re quickly thrown into a positive light.
This is something that works in and of itself, I appreciate that at its heart the series has a positive bent. And while by no means am I saying that the story would be more impactful if it was full of more trauma or strife (the show is thankfully decidedly not about that), it still leaves me feeling like none of her struggles and setbacks are going to endure for particularly long. Her conclusion doesn’t feel entirely earned. There’s conflict, but the resolution feels too easy, but it acts as if it was hard-won. Which is perhaps the curse of having seemingly set Anne’s growth back a few notches at the beginning, despite the other ways it succeeds. I don’t fully trust that she’s learned the lessons that the show implies she has, both because I’ve not seen it on screen, and because the movie showed me that she’s prone to regression.
This doesn’t take away from what I loved about the movie. It’s a fitting and lovely conclusion to a great show. It leaves behind so much great and diverse queer representation, so many lovable characters who do not get enough screen time in this movie, and a reminder that finding yourself isn’t a moment, it’s a process, a practice, and a lifelong experience. But Anne+: The Film also feels somewhat unfulfilled, in so far as it struggles with a single relationship but glosses or assumes too much about Anne’s greater sense of self. Where perhaps future seasons could stand in for the assumptive tent poles holding up this movie’s morals, I also fear they would muddle the clear and strong message inferred here. I
I’m perfectly satisfied with Anne+: The Film goes. It has a fun time, great characters and relationships, some of the most expliit sex scenes in a feature film, and so much for going for it. I don’t think it could possibly have been more. I just wish it could have been a little bit more.
Anne+: The Film is streaming now on Netflix.
Anne+: The Film
I’m perfectly satisfied with Anne+: The Film goes. It has a fun time, great characters and relationships, some of the most intense sex scenes in a feature film, and so much for going for it. I don’t think it could possibly have been more. I just wish it could have been a little bit more.