London 2022

The Origin of Evil review – a multi-faceted thief makes for a cunning romp

Laure Calamy gives a sensational lead turn in Sébastien Marnier's twisty tale of mistaken identity set in a millionaire’s playground

In the immortal words of The Simpsons, “you don’t win friends with salad” – and director Sébastien Marnier proves the sentiment works for lower-class women working in a fish factory, too. In the world of the uber-rich, possessions are there to be forgotten and occasionally stolen by a maid, while family stands for nothing. In dire straits, actions can perhaps be held accountable by an ex-con hustling her way into family life, equipped with a double identity. The Origin of Evil provides a cutting comment on wealth and social hierarchy, with its eccentric ensemble victims of their own heinous nonchalance.

Nodding to the likes of Agatha Christie and Claude Chabrol, viewers could be forgiven for assuming they’re in for a single dimension of drama. Set up like a Cluedo introductory guide, faces of suspicion are attached to endless mansion rooms full of incomprehensible tat. The wicked stepmother (Dominique Blanc), ruthless girlboss (Doria Tillier), and estranged father (Jaques Weber) lay in wait to deliver predicted plotlines in the film’s first third, accented by a direction of photography that intentionally never focuses the eye. But like all good mysteries, the thrill is in the element of surprise, arriving by way of a mid-point tonal shift gift-wrapped in deceit.

The success of the film itself comes largely down to lead Laure Calamy, playing the role of Nathalie Cordier, a woman with no fixed past or abode. The audience meets her as Stéphane Marson, having successfully tracked down her long-lost father after spending years apart. Immediately loathed by her new extended family, she sets out to unravel the complex family dynamic that have already frayed. Much like her character, Calamy holds all the cards. Coming from the commercial success of Call My Agent! and a tour de force role in Her Way, she once again proves her acting repertoire can hold no bounds.

Straddling the thin line between a wholesome, doting daughter and a conniving, calculating thief, Calamy instantly burrows into the lives of those that detest her, armed only with the action of appeasement. Whether viewers are aware of Calamy's work or completely unfamiliar, the same can be said for her onscreen charm here, as she worms her way into the mental library of the viewer.

The subject and choice of journey may not be groundbreaking, but The Origin of Evil ensures a good time and a satisfying result. Wanton rich folk do indeed get (metaphorically) eaten, yet Marnier ensures a sadistic tension when letting them get their own way. Where does right end and wrong begin? Who knows. But it does help to have a few fake IDs to hand just in case.

The Origin of Evil screened as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2022. A UK release date has yet to be announced.

Where to watch

More Reviews...

Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes review – brilliantly tricksy Euro horror homage

Kevin Kopacka's meta-natured genre throwback, greatly atmospheric and narratively loose, is never quite what it appears

Lynch/Oz review – an act of film criticism that illuminates and invigorates

Alexandre O. Philippe’s approachable, insightful documentary delves into the director's canon through his love of The Wizard of Oz

Utama review – Bolivian drama of big themes and bold visuals

Alejandro Loayza Grisi's debut explores intergenerational conflict and climate emergency through the story of two elderly farmers

Strange World review – Disney Animation stumbles with a sluggish adventure

Some fantastic environment and creature designs aside, poor pacing and a lack of jokes will leave parents and kids mostly bored

Features

Starter Pack: A Guide to Noirvember

As the month-long celebration kicks off again, Steph Green offers a pathway into the most morally murky of all movie genres...

Goran Stolevski on You Won’t Be Alone: “The film is about witches, but it’s also about feelings!”

The Macedonian-Australian director's bewitching debut feature is a Balkan fairytale that grapples with identity and humanity. Fedor Tot talks to the filmmaker ahead of its UK release

10 Must-See Films at BFI London Film Festival 2022

As the latest edition of the festival returns to the capital, Ella Kemp highlights some of this year's most essential features

Every David Cronenberg Film, Ranked

To mark the release of Crimes of the Future, Steph Green sorts the body-obsessed auteur's vast filmography from worst to best...