The latest buzzy title on Netflix has strong pedigree: a director known for fusing thrillers with themes of social justice and a cast that includes such British stalwarts as Hugh Bonneville and Kelly Macdonald. Although I Came By occasionally prompts the retort “So what?”, Babak Anvari’s film is sleek and sinister enough to merit attention.
Anvari, a British filmmaker of Iranian extraction, brilliantly channelled his heritage into the allegorical horror film Under the Shadow (2016). That film is on Netflix, as is Anvari’s second feature Wounds (2019), which stars Armie Hammer, Dakota Johnson and Zazie Beetz alongside lots of cockroaches.
I Came By begins with a pair of righteous vandals who breaks into rich people’s homes in London and spray-paint the film’s title on their walls. Toby (George Mackay) is a troubled 23-year-old dropout who barely gets along with his therapist mother (Kelly Macdonald). His partner Jameel (Percelle Ascott) goes straight after his girlfriend Naz (Varada Sethu) gets pregnant, leaving Toby to target former judge Hector Blake’s home by himself. Hector (Hugh Bonneville) isn’t who he claims to be: a jurist who supports the rights of marginalised communities.
Anvari’s screenplay, written along with Namsi Khan, shoehorns commentary about British inequity into an American-style house-of-horrors thriller. The 110-minute film is better off following the attempts of Lizzie and Jameel to find out what has happened to Toby after he entered Hector’s home.
Kelly Macdonald is typically solid, but the star item here is Downton Abbey actor Hugh Bonneville as a magnificently malevolent specimen of the British upper crust. This film’s version of the upstairs-downstairs is easily its smartest idea.