The Movie Waffler New to VOD - THE ORIGIN OF EVIL | The Movie Waffler


A desperate woman claims to be a wealthy man's estranged daughter.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Sébastien Marnier

Starring: Laure Calamy, Jacques Weber, Dominique Blanc, Doria Tillier, Céleste Brunnquell

The Origin of Evil poster

Though she's been plying her trade for two decades now, it's in the last few years that Laure Calamy has established herself as one of the most exciting actresses of today's talented French crop. Equally adept at comedy and drama, Calamy gets to express both those sides in Sébastien Marnier's The Origin of Evil, in which she plays a klutz who convinces herself she has what it takes to be a femme fatale.

The Origin of Evil review

Like Saltburn, The Origin of Evil is another variation on films like The Servant and Teorema, in which an outsider causes havoc in the home of a wealthy family. The interloper here is Calamy's Nathalie, who seeks out wealthy property magnate Serge Dumontet (Jacques Weber), posing as his long lost daughter Stepháne. Nathalie is in dire straits, having been made homeless by the return of her landlady's estranged daughter, and is fed up of working at a fish processing plant and rowing with her incarcerated girlfriend (Suzanne Clément).

Serge immediately warms to Nathalie, but standing in the way of her plans are the women of the Dumontet family. Serge's wife Louise (Dominique Blanc), who spends her days ordering expensive items from a TV shopping channel, seems to know what Nathalie is up to but doesn't have the energy to stop her. Their daughter George (Doria Tillier), on the other hand, is determined to put an end to her scheme. They're both aided by housekeeper Agnes (Véronique Ruggia), whose look seems to be modelled on Alida Valli's stern ballet teacher in Argento's Suspiria.

The Origin of Evil review

The latter is one of several nods to genre cinema of the past in Marnier's film. It opens with what seems like a homage to De Palma's Carrie as the camera glides through a steamy locker room. The exposed female flesh here doesn't belong to high school girls however but to embittered fish plant workers washing the stink of anchovies from their middle-aged bodies. Like De Palma, Marnier makes liberal use of split-screen, but in a quite novel way. There's a scene early on in which Nathalie is being interrogated at the Dumontets' dinner table. It's important that the camera remain on Calamy's face so we can see how Nathalie is forced to quickly improvise answers to questions she hasn't fully prepared for, so rather than cutting between separate close-ups of the various parties stationed around the table, Marnier uses split screen to keep Calamy on screen as the other segments of the screen cut between her interrogators.

It's easy to understand why a director would want to avoid cutting away from Calamy, as she really is entrancing here. As an audience member you're almost afraid to blink, lest you miss some subtle gesture from the actress. There are some wonderful moments of black comedy, like whenever Nathalie finds herself the recipient of some overly physical attention from the man who believes she's his daughter. At the same time she's also convincingly threatening as Nathalie becomes increasingly conniving in her plot.

The Origin of Evil review

The Origin of Evil never quite elevates itself to the level of a classic Claude Chabrol thriller however, as Marnier fails to to structure his film in a way that generates the necessary tension and suspense. There's no likeable figure here in this bunch of sociopaths, but there's something ambitiously admirable about Nathalie that makes the audience want to root for her plot to succeed. And yet we rarely get the sense that Nathalie is in any real danger of being caught until very late on. As such, The Origin of Evil succeeds as a black comedy but squanders its potential to become your new favourite French thriller.

The Origin of Evil
 is on UK/ROI VOD now.

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