Sean Baker Does It Again with Anora


In Sean Baker we trust. 

The Tangerine (2015) and The Florida Project (2017) director has a knack for embracing characters who exist on the margins of society. Anora (2024) is no different. Featuring a genuine star-making turn from Mikey Madison (critics always throw that term around, but this time it’s true, we swear!), it effortlessly creates a sense of humanity, empathy and dignity that is so often denied characters like the beleaguered but determined Ani (Madison).

Ani – short for Anora, a name, along with her partial Uzbek heritage, that she purposefully sets aside – works as an exotic dancer at a club in New York City. She’s good at her job, able to attract clients with her personality and many other charms. And when her boss needs a girl who speaks Russian to attend to a table of high-rollers, Ani meets Vanya (Mark Eydelshteyn), a sweet Russian boy determined to party his way through America on Daddy’s dime.

Vanya is entranced by her, and it doesn’t take long for their casual business relationship to turn into more, culminating in Vanya spontaneously proposing in Vegas. It seems like all of Ani’s dreams are coming true, but there’s just one problem: what are Vanya’s oligarch parents going to think about all this? Well, they’re not too thrilled. And it remains to be seen if Vanya and Ani will have the strength to stand up to them.

From beginning to end, this is Mikey Madison’s baby. She shines in every scene she’s in (which is almost all of them), consistently revealing new shades of her character to keep things interesting. When the film is in danger of becoming a little too shouty, she adjusts, proving Ani to be a character who is good at reading others and fully capable of defending herself. You simply can’t take your eyes off her. You want the best for her. 

Supporting Madison is Mark Eydelshteyn as her Energizer bunny of a husband, who is bright and sunny but ultimately weak-willed when it counts, and Yura Borisov, who plays Igor, one of Vanya’s family’s goons. Borisov does so much acting with just his eyes, subtly bringing humour and emotion to a staple character, one who in any other film would have little to do.

Anora is a devastating reminder of who is allowed to achieve the American dream, and who is allowed to live a life free of consequences. Vanya, who dreams of being an American, is free to act in any way he sees fit. “My son doesn’t apologise to anyone,” his mother spits out, and it’s true.  He leaves chaos in his wake. Mummy and daddy clean it up for him. 

Meanwhile, Ani is subject to the whims of others, attempting to build a future on shifting sands. With its incredibly moving performances and continuation of the themes we’ve seen in many of Baker’s other films, Anora is a riotous ride through an unlikely Cinderella story that has a tremendous amount of heart.

Audrey Fox is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic and a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics, with bylines at, /Film, The Nerdist, Looper, amongst others.