I Came By movie review: Netflix thriller is deliciously dark
This neo-gothic, teen-friendly thriller stars Hugh Bonneville, George MacKay and Kelly MacDonald, and practically everything worth saying about it amounts to a spoiler. What I can tell you is that Bonneville and MacDonald get most of the killer lines and that the film explores class warfare, colonialism and queer desire via a shonky script but also original and deliciously dark.
Toby (MacKay) and Jay (Percelle Ascott) are two graffiti writers (they prefer that term to graffiti artists). They inveigle themselves into penthouses and mansions, where they spray the walls with three insouciant words: I Came By.
Toby wants to target the home of judge Sir Hector Blake (Bonneville), but Jay pulls out of the mission. Which means Toby – who has no friends apart from Jay and is alienated from his middle-class mum (MacDonald) - finds himself thrown into a dangerous situation, without any backup.
It’s no secret that Bonneville is versatile and a close-up of the actor’s face, as Blake is massaged by Iranian asylum seeker Omid (Yazdan Qafouri), encapsulates all the movie’s strengths. Bonneville’s delicate eyes are mesmerising and to watch them dart around, as Blake listens to Omid’s wrenching story, is an unsettling treat.
The use of a clip from British Bake Off (showing Lizzie Acker’s “Extraordinary cake”, that gaudy ode to neuro-diversity) is also nifty. It’s surely no coincedence that Toby’s mum is called Lizzie. By contrast, Toby is disgusted by all TV; he sees it as corporate mush. The film, cleverly, doesn’t take sides, merely suggesting that there’s more than one way to infiltrate the mainstream.
The result is a beautifully nuanced portrait of a frazzled and protective mother (Lizzie’s conversations with Jay are particularly edgy). When you’re not laughing, you may cry.
Iranian-born director Babak Anvari made the adorable gay short film What’s Up with Adam? and won prizes for his subtle, deeply disturbing feature-length debut, Under the Shadow.
I Came By, like Anvari’s 2019 horror film Wounds, is less elegant than his earlier work. Both script-wise, and visually, I Came By can be downright crude and every now and again you’d be forgiven for thinking, “Damn, I’m watching the nincompoop’s version of Parasite.”
But stick with it. Bonneville and co force viewers to stumble down a twisty path and being wrong-footed is all part of the fun.
110mins, cert 15
In selected cinemas this week and on Netflix from August 31