I Came By is a middle of the road thriller that manages to shock and thrill, but gets too convoluted in its plot.
Written by Becca Johnson / September 3, 2022
Starring Kelly McDonald (Trainspotting), George MacKay (1917) and Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), I Came By is a new Netflix thriller centering on a young graffiti artist who targets the homes of the elite. Whilst on a job, he gets more than he bargained for when he discovers a shocking secret in the basement of a local retired judge.
I Came By is very much reminiscent of BBC drama, and has a cast that you'd expect to find in one. George MacKay turns in a good (despite the sub par accent) performance as Toby, a graffiti artist who targets the walls of wealthy residents homes in order to give a message. He is a lost individual who suffers from the absence of his Father and struggles to find his place in the world; Mackay plays it well. In the Mother role is Kelly Macdonald, who steals the show and gives the movie heart and soul. After putting up with her sons toxic behaviour, she gets sent on a whirlwind journey that puts her through her paces and tests her in ways she never expected. For a change, we see Hugh Bonneville take on the dark villainous role; unfortunately, he isn't quite convincing enough. Though he tries his best, his performance is a little too measured to be fully believable.
The plot is intriguing enough to allow you to invest in it. There's a mystery to uncover, an emotional Mum to root for and a few twists and turns along the way to keep you guessing. It mostly plays it safe and refrains from getting too gory and violent, yet has very dark and twisted motivations and themes. It has a few scenes that are likely to send a shiver up your spine, and leave you shouting at the characters on the TV to prevent their bad decisions. It definitely does a lot that we've seen before from the likes of Don't Breathe (2016) and Bad Samaritan (2018), but its gritty British feel and unique character backstories help it to stand out. Despite its run time feeling a little too long, it does well to keep you invested, the central premise keeping things fairly strong and fresh.
As nice as it is to have an ambitious plot, it feels very convoluted and attempts to tackle too much at once. The script delivers themes of grooming, relationship breakdown, grief, being disowned by your parents due to your choices and the difficulties of seeking asylum, yet every conversation is surface level. If it had picked just a couple of these and explored them deeper and more thoughtfully, I Came By would have felt more cohesive and well written. It undeniably explores important and exciting themes – we just don't get enough discussion. It tries to be dark, thrilling, twisted, thought-provoking and unique, but it may just try too hard, making it fall short of the mark in multiple categories.
Netflix's I Came By is worth the watch on a rainy day. It's far from the best mystery thriller out there, but it's bleak and shocking enough to hold your attention and take you on a ride. Its performances are mostly good from both the leads and support, despite Bonneville's unconvincing turn, and the premise is strong. It feels slow in places but has many exciting, violent and grim sequences along the way that remind you why you're watching. It's ending won't impress all, nor will it's convoluted plot, but many viewers may enjoy I Came By for what it is; a fun little thriller that has big ambitions and a rare villainous performance from Bonneville. It's not the greatest, but it's not the worst either.