I Came By movie review & film summary (2022)

George MacKay of “1917” plays Toby, a young graffiti artist who has the unique M.O. of not painting his art in public for everyone to see but in the private homes of the wealthy and powerful. With his buddy Jay (Percelle Ascott), Toby breaks into expensive homes and tags a wall with the phrase “I Came By.” Why? It’s not completely clear, but Toby probably likes to make those who feel like they’re insulated from society realize that they’re vulnerable too. He will learn that isn’t always the case.

After Jay breaks up the duo because the pregnancy of his girlfriend makes him shift his priorities, Toby decides to do the next job alone, which leads him to the basement of a former judge named Hector Blake (Hugh Bonneville, relishing the opportunity to turn his stately demeanor into something menacing), who looks like an upstanding member of his community. Toby’s break-in leads him to Blake’s basement, where he sees a light under a hidden door, and finds, well, you’ve probably seen “Don’t Breathe.”

However, this is not quite that movie as Toby doesn’t get into a battle of wills with Blake. “I Came By” shifts protagonists here to Toby’s mother (Kelly Macdonald), who grows increasingly concerned that her 23-year-old son has disappeared off the face of the earth. Her quest to find him leads her into the life of Jay, and Anvari and co-writer Namsi Khan have at least one more POV turn left to take as their film puts together the story of Blake’s dark secrets and Toby’s fate.

Anvari’s film almost seems more interested in its social conscious than in raising the viewer’s heart rate. Blake is the kind of guy who can drop the name of his police chief buddy during an investigation in order to shield himself from inquiry. There’s an element of “I Came By” that isn’t so much about what happens behind closed doors as it is about how often powerful people can get away with murder in plain sight. Bonneville nails this kind of haughty malevolence—the kind that knows it’s too powerful to really get in any trouble, right? In fact, his performance arguably shifts the balance of the film a bit too much in that the “good guys” don’t feel like they have enough character to counter it. MacKay is particularly shallow as Toby, although that could be part of the point. There’s a reading of this film that it’s about a young man making hollow gestures against a system that he hasn’t really taken the time to understand, or adequately fear.

“I Came By” is undeniably well-composed and entertaining enough for its missteps to be overlooked most of the time. Yes, it’s a rewrite short of greatness, but Bonneville makes it worth a visit even if its final needle drop over the credits feels indicative of its relatively shallowness. Yes, sure, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” What else is new? 

On Netflix now.

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