FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE YET TO SEE I CAME BY, THIS IS A NON-SPOILER REVIEW.
The best psychological thrillers are able to keep you on the edge-of-your-seat and constantly subvert your expectations… and it’s always a plus when they throw in a good twist or two and have some kind of important message masked behind the tension. Writer/Director Babak Anvari attempts to do all of those things and more with his new Netflix film I Came By. And at first, he succeeds on nearly every level… I honestly thought that this could be a real sleeper hit for the streaming giant. But, it all comes crashing down by the end, creating one of the more frustrating watches of the year.
WHAT IS I CAME BY ALL ABOUT?
A rebellious young graffiti artist, who targets the homes of the wealthy elite, discovers a shocking secret that leads him on a journey endangering himself and those closest to him.
I went in knowing very little about this flick… Because luckily, the editors of the trailer did a good job of hiding a lot of I Came By’s secrets. And this is definitely a movie that you want to go in as blindly as possible for… because it does deliver on the twists and turns. So, while this is a non-spoiler review… If you don’t want to know anything more, come back and read this once you’ve finished the film.
HOW DOES THIS MOVIE SUBVERT YOUR EXPECTATIONS?
One of the best examples of subverting expectations in film is when Alfred Hitchcock made you believe that Psycho was going to be completely centered around Marion Crane. The master of suspense then pulled the rug out from under audiences completely, leading us to realize that anything could happen in the remainder of the movie. Anvari plays with this false sense of security in I Came By, toying with the viewer’s assumptions of who the main protagonist is and where the story is leading us. He also experiments with the passage of time, as it’s rarely clear if it’s a day that has passed in the story, a month, or even a year. The film constantly makes us question what we actually know and what we have yet to discover.
HOW UNPREDICTABLE IS I CAME BY?
These machinations in the screenplay are really what make this Netflix Original stand out from the rest of the crowd. It’s not very often that I can say that I had absolutely no idea where a movie was going… but, truly every prediction that I came up with during I Came By, would always end up being squashed just seconds later. It’s a testament to the script’s effectiveness that I was constantly one step behind, racing to catch up, but never felt like I was lost or losing interest. Where it all ends up leading, is where my issues lie, however… But, I will get to that in a second.
HOW IS THE CAST?
What I Came By also has going for it, is a superb cast. Our main players here are George MacKay as a graffiti artist trying to fight back against the rich and the powerful, Percelle Ascott as his best friend, partner-in-crime and a soon-to-be father, his widowed mother played by Kelly MacDonald, and Paddington and Downtown Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville playing completely against type as a sadistic retired judge. These four performers all give so much depth to their characters and elevate the sometimes clunky dialogue and lapses in logic the film contains. Ascott is definitely a performer I will be keeping a close eye on in the future, as he was the only one in the cast that I was unfamiliar with. The young actor really leaves an impression here, especially in some of the final scenes of the movie.
PADDINGTON’S HUGH BONNEVILLE AS A PSYCHOPATH!?!?
But, as strong as the others are, Hugh Bonneville steals every scene he is in. And in doing so, pretty much runs off with the film. He plays Sir Hector Blake with such psychotic precision, that you might honestly never be able to watch his performance in Paddington the same again. Bonneville is definitely what holds the movie together as I Came By progressively convolutes itself. The sheer fact that you can’t stop watching until you see what becomes of this vile human being, proves how compelling his performance is.
IS THIS MOVIE A TAD OVER-AMBITIOUS?
But, no matter how fantastic the cast is or how refreshing the twisty narrative structure can be… I could not get over the fact that this film just cannot sustain the weight of its lofty ambitions. I started I Came By being impressed with how different and unique it was. Yet ultimately I was irritated that it didn’t go a more simplistic route. Similar movies such as Disturbia and Don’t Breathe benefited from keeping things straightforward and focusing primarily on just being a solid thrill ride. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be enough for our writer/director. Who ends up overcomplicating the whole thing until it’s too far gone?
Sometimes throwing everything and the kitchen sink into your movie doesn’t make it better; on the contrary, it actually muddles what you’re trying to say. And it is obvious that Anvari is trying to say a whole lot here about class, race, and social justice… But, it never translates into anything remotely thought-provoking, because it gets lost between the lines.
DOES I CAME BY LEAVE TOO MANY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS?
I also can’t help but think that there have to be some scenes on the cutting room floor… That is just screaming to be put back into the film. While the final shot makes you feel like everything should be wrapped up in a nice little bow and all has come full circle… I was left with far more questions than I did answers. If the filmmaker had tightened up the script and was actually able to get his message across, this would be a real slam-dunk thriller. I really was on the-edge-of-my-seat for most of I Came By’s runtime… But, by the end, I had fallen off the edge entirely.
I Came By will be streaming on Netflix on August 31st, 2022.
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