Netflix UK film review: I Came By
James R | On 19, Sep 2022
Director: Babak Anvari
Cast: Hugh Bonneville, George MacKay, Percelle Ascott, Kelly Macdonald
It’s been several years since Babak Anvari announced himself as a director to watch with Under the Shadow, an atmospheric, unsettling thriller that blended suspense and social commentary. With I Came By, he again grounds dark chills in a societal context, but to less thrilling effect.
The film follows Toby (George MacKay), a graffiti artist who spends his days breaking into wealthy people’s homes and leaving the titular tag on their living room walls. If that doesn’t sound like a particularly effective method of making a moral or political point, then you’ve already got a sense of I Came By’s central problem: a lack of logic. That lack is felt on several levels, not least because other parts of the production hold so much promise.
Toby lives with his mum, Lizzie (Kelly Macdonald), a counsellor who implausibly has no idea about her son’s spray-painting antics and almost doesn’t notice when his latest job goes wrong. That job involves the home of Sir Hector Blake (Hugh Bonneville), a retired judge known for his compassionate campaigns for inclusiveness and equality. It’s no spoiler to say that Hector isn’t as wholesome as he appears, and it’s here that I Came By finds its clout, as it explores exploitation of power.
Hugh Bonneville is hugely unnerving as the hypocritical figure of privilege, swinging from respectable and kind to cold and calculating with all the alarming energy of an actor who is enjoying playing against type. But the script doesn’t know how to best showcase that central slice of villainy, and so we jump around the ensemble in a way that feels muddled rather than unpredictable. It leaves a heartfelt turn by Percelle Ascott as Toby’s former partner in crime, Jay, Varada Sethu as Jay’s wife, Naz, and Franc Ashman as savvy police detective Ella Lloyd all underused.
The visuals are atmospheric, steeping the streets of London in dark shadows, while the use of smart home security systems is nifty enough. But I Came By’s uneven storytelling struggles to turn its killer casting and timely concept into something convincing or chilling.