In British thriller, I Came By, Toby Nealey is a 23-year-old graffiti artist who lives with his mother in London. Toby spends his days watching socially and politically charged YouTube videos, and his nights breaking into the homes of rich people in order to deface their property with a graffiti tag.
One night, Toby targets the home of high court judge, Sir Hector Blake. He waits until Blake has left his property, breaks into his house, and starts to explore.
After venturing into Blake’s basement, Toby discovers a hidden door, situated behind a stack of shelves. Intrigued by what could be housed behind the door, he peers in through a spy hole.
What Toby sees causes him great distress and he quickly realises there is more to Sir Hector Blake than there first appears. But what is the terrible secret locked away in the basement and will he be able to convince anyone that Blake is not the upstanding member of society he claims to be?
Directed by Babak Anvari, I Came By stars Hugh Bonneville, George MacKay, Kelly Macdonald, and Percelle Ascott. The movie is available to stream on Netflix from today, and is a dark picture designed to unsettle and unnerve.
The film centres around the secret life of Sir Hector Blake. It poses the questions: Who is he, why does he act the way he does, and will he get away with unspeakable crimes?
Now, to be clear, I Came By is very much a film about exploring this one particular character, and providing a platform for actor Hugh Bonneville to have a ball playing the film’s unscrupulous bad guy. Which of course he does – and if I have one very positive thing to say about I Came By, it is that Bonneville is excellent in this part.
The actor known for his roles in hit TV series, Downton Abbey, as well as films such as Notting Hill (1999) and the Paddington movies (2014 – 2017), excels as an unhinged serial killer. He creates the right balance between ‘upstanding member of the public’ and posh Norman Bates, and gives the film its best moments.
Bonneville is an absolute treat and I can’t praise him enough. It’s just a shame then that the rest of the movie is a bit of a mixed bag.
Whenever I Came By isn’t focusing on Blake, it’s simply not all that interesting. The film never feels as good as it should be, and results in a middling affair, filled with multiple peaks and troughs.
No major spoilers here, but characters come and go with considerable frequency, so it’s difficult to become all that engaged with anyone who isn’t Blake. I guess that’s largely the point, but it stops the movie from having one central heroic figure to focus on, and who can act as a counter point to the villain.
There is also the general feeling that this film could (and perhaps should) lean a bit deeper into the darker elements of the story. There are some grisly moments in the movie, but pretty much all of them are implied, rather than explicitly shown.
While I believe it is true that movies are often far scarier when they tease something, rather than when they reveal it, I do feel that I Came By should offer up the goods a little more. Upping the violence, or even the shock-factor here and there, would not be a bad thing.
And then there is an issue with the pacing. This film feels slow in places and I must admit I did start to lose a bit of interest on a couple of occasions.
However, I’m not going to dump on this movie too much, because I Came By is not a bad film, it’s just not a brilliant one. It gets by largely on Bonneville’s performance, but it is perfectly watchable for the most part and it does have its moments.
As with a number of Netflix movies, I Came By falls into the ‘lower your expectations’ category, which is not a great endorsement I must admit, but it is what it is. Watch the film for Bonneville, don’t sweat the rest.
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