Review: The Origin of Evil – Not the evil you’re expecting
Directed by Sébastien Marnier
Starring Laure Calamy, Dominique Blanc, Doria Tillier, Jacques Weber
The less said about twisty drama thrillers, the better. One word could set off a domino effect of revelations before the film has even begun. The Origin of Evil is one of these movies. If you hear that it’s like Fight Club, then you know there will be mind bending. Or if it’s like Knives Out, you know it’s a subversive whodunnit. So just mentioning movies that they’re even lightly similar to spoils something, or points you in the right direction. But The Origin of Evil doesn’t have these twists, they’re only similar by atmosphere. In fact, there are twists and reveals in The Origin of Evil that are wholly unique and quite affecting.
Stéphane (Laure Calamy) works on an assembly line packing fish. It’s unglamorous and truly dull. The highlight of her day is arguing with her landlady — she’s getting kicked out. But, as winds change, she gets in touch with her long-lost father (Jacques Weber), and she’s swept off to a luxurious isle and a mansion of opulence. At this point maybe you think you know where it’s going — family drama, pecking order, money matters — but is it? Her new family (Dominique Blanc and Doria Tillier) want nothing to do with her, but are always watching. The rich old man’s health is failing. Stéphane is having trouble keeping up with these rich snobs, but is there still something else going on?
Twists become reversals, the condemned become saints, and the saints are condemned. It’s a chaotic, electric maze of cats and mice hidden behind a biting family drama. There are guns on the walls, long lost sons, court hearings, and prison inmates sneaking around this family. The movie could become any genre at any moment, but you feel like you’re in safe hands. It’s a relaxed rollercoaster. Some moments are outrageously funny, while others are heartrending. And will it end in horror, or action, or a group hug?
It’s a charming contradiction of a movie, and it pulls it off almost perfectly. But in a frayed, messy movie like this, there are bound to be a few loose ends, and the ending is one of them. It’s rushed and a little bit of a cheap shot. Not everything pays off, and somehow it’s neither a decisive ending nor an ambiguous one.
But despite tripping up at the very end, The Origin of Evil is a real chocolate box of a movie. The mansion is lavishly furnished. The characters are deftly rendered. There’s a little bit of everything and yet it all works well together. And between all the drama and subterfuge are sweet moments and unexpected kindness. Alongside the elegant acting, they turn this dark-comedy-mystery-thriller into a surprisingly warm-hearted movie. Is that the biggest twist of all? Or just another misdirection?