Babak Anvari’s “I Came By,” a primarily successful potboiler, has the opposite issue of so many miniseries on the streaming service in that it has a TV season’s worth of ideas crammed into its runtime. It’s rare to accuse a Netflix thriller of being overly ambitious, but that’s the case with Babak Anvari’s “I Came By.”
By switching POVs and skipping significant periods, he continuously challenges assumptions about where “I Came By” is going. However, this results in a movie that is unsure of its own identity and struggles to marry its ideas with its execution. Having said that, “I Came By” has some entertaining performances and interesting concepts, two things that set it apart from much of the output of the Netflix Thriller Factory.
Toby, a teenage graffiti artist with a distinctive M.O. who paints his work in the private residences of the affluent and powerful, is portrayed by George MacKay of “1917.” Toby trespasses into opulent mansions with his friend Jay (Percelle Ascott), who spray-paints the words “I Came By” on a wall. Why? It’s not quite evident, but Toby undoubtedly enjoys exposing the vulnerability of individuals who have been shielded from society.
After Jay dissolves the partnership due to his girlfriend’s pregnancy forcing him to reevaluate his priorities, Toby resolves to do the following task by himself. This brings him to the residence of Hector Blake, a retired judge who appears to be a respectable member of his town (Hugh Bonneville, who relishes the chance to transform his dignified manner into something terrifying). Toby discovers “Don’t Breathe” in Blake’s basement after spotting a light beneath a closed door. Toby and Blake do not engage in a struggle of wills in this film, thus it is not nearly that one. Here, the focus changes to Toby’s mother (Kelly Macdonald), who worries more and more that her 23-year-old son has vanished off the face of the planet in “I Came By.”
The social consciousness of Anvari’s film nearly feels more important in fact, it might be argued that his acting tip-toes the balance of the movie a little too much because the “good people” lack the personality to balance it out. As Toby, MacKay is especially shallow, though that could be part of the idea. This movie has been seen as being about a young man making empty protests against a system that he hasn’t taken the time to comprehend or sufficiently dread.o it then the viewer’s heart rate. Blake is the type of person who may mention the name of his police chief friend during an investigation to avoid being questioned. In some ways, “I Came By” is more about how frequently powerful individuals can get away with murder in broad daylight than it is about what occurs behind closed doors. Bonneville perfectly captures this type of arrogant malice—the sort that knows it’s too strong to do any trouble.
It might be claimed that because the “good characters” lack the personality to counterbalance it, his performance tilts the balance of the film a little too far. MacKay is particularly shallow as Toby, but that could be part of the plan. Many people believe that this film is about a young guy who protests ineffectively against a system that he hasn’t given himself enough time to understand or enough dread.