Online premieres: review of “I was here”, by Babak Anvari (Netflix)

The new film for Netflix from the British-Iranian director of “Under the Shadows” focuses on a young man who investigates strange things that happen in the house of a prestigious judge. With George MacKay, Hugh Bonneville and Kelly Macdonald. Netflix premiere.

A failed thriller but much more intricate and complex than the usual ones that Netflix seems to produce as a formula, I came for is the new film by the British-based Iranian director of UNDER THE SHADOWS Y WOUNDS. It is a film that is not very clear about its objective and does not take full advantage of its possibilities linked to suspense and terror, but at the same time it is a rather disturbing story about social and economic inequalities, as well as being a rather harsh portrait about family relationships, especially those between parents and children.

I WAS HERE is the text («I came for«, in the original) that Toby (George MacKay, of 1917) and Jay (Percelle Ascott), two friends from London, write on the walls of the houses they get into, like politicized graffiti. Young people enter the homes of millionaires and powerful people without the intention of stealing or anything of the sort, but rather as a kind of critical/political manifestation that tries to expose the privileges of some and how these can be easily violated, almost as if warning them that “we are here outside”.

But Jay’s girlfriend gets pregnant (they’re both children of immigrants, which is relevant) and Toby decides to keep doing it himself, breaking into the house of Sir Hector Blake (Hugh Bonneville), a well-respected, well-connected and retired judge with the intention of leaving his «message». But when checking the basement of the place he realizes that there, well, there are strange things, of those that are usually seen in the basement of some people in movies of this type. And he decides to escape and then try to do something about it.

It is not convenient to tell much more about the plot, since the film works with constant narrative twists, which change the main character. At first it will be Jay’s story, but then it will focus on her mother, Lizzie (Kelly Macdonald), who does not get along with her son but begins to worry about her strange activities. Anvari will then go on to show more of Blake’s life, including his own family conflicts and hinting a bit more about his “double life of his.” And at some point Jay will take matters into his own hands, for reasons to be seen.

The hitchockian narrative structure of I came for (to say which Hitchcock film it resembles from its operation would be almost a revelationfor which I will refrain from doing it) is tangled and does not finish working quite well, especially since the passes between one and the other «narrator» are not marked with the necessary dramatic forcefulness. Anvari does not take full advantage of the possibilities of suspense and terror that the situation itself potentially generates. And if the film manages to be somewhat distressing at times, it is more because of what it suggests and does not count than because of what is seen.

The subtlety of that decision is valuable in creative terms, but not so much in creating tension. It seems that Anvari is more interested in the repercussions of the events, in the subtext, than in the intensity of a story that extends for excessive 110 minutes. Despite that, I WAS HERE It’s not one of those movies that is instantly forgotten like much of Netflix’s original production – except for the ones they present as potential Oscar contenders in the final months of each year – but it’s one that’s smart and ambitious enough to be considered, almost, as a missed opportunity.

The fact is that the film has many elements in its favor, starting with the always unnerving presence of MacKay as a rebellious boy who believes that he can shock the institutions with some graffiti. If you add to that the veteran Bonneville (PADDINGTON, DOWNTON ABBEY) playing an aristocratic and highly connected politician with a sinister side and a dark family past, I WAS HERE It has the right elements to become a perverse and strange thriller about classism, racism and the privileges that protect certain characters in the political world, in this case, British. But Anvari goes back and forth between themes and characters without managing to fully create the necessary climate. Sinister that this type of plot would need to work really well.

There are moments, however, strong enough to generate horror. Spaced, but powerful at last. Two of them (which involve brief images and are more suggestive than anything else) are frightening enough to give this Hector and his “house of terror” a decidedly repulsive look, but Anvari almost always chooses not to go further with any of them. they. And that modesty –rare in a suspense and horror film– can be noble as a cinematographic resource, but it does not end up generating enough horror and fear in the viewer. And at the end of it all you are left with a series of interesting characters, ideas and scenes in search of a better movie.

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