I went into this expecting to be slightly underwhelmed to be honest. I knew it had had good reviews, but I was concerned it would be overly stylised and too self-knowing to truly be enjoyable for me on a personal level. Yeah, I was wrong. I loved this film, it will probably be the last “great” film I see this year. December is usually full of overly sentimental family movies, so I can’t see anything topping this. Still, what a way for the year to end. This is one of the best scripts I’ve seen in a film all year. It reminds me of Searching, which as anybody who speaks to me for more than a few minutes will know is a good thing. Like that film, this is also one which goes where you wouldn’t expect it to. That’s always a good sign for a whodunnit. If you figure out the ending in the opening thirty minutes of the film, the film has failed (the exception is Murder On The Orient Express, I already knew the ending of that film but it was so well done that the film was enjoyable anyway). This is different though, you get told the “killer” relatively early on, the rest of the film is dealing with hiding that fact, and figuring out who hired the detective in the first place.
This could be viewed as a mistake, if the audience is here to find out the killer then why are you revealing it that early? The answer? Because they can. The script is good enough to carry that subverted expectation. It’s not just a good script in terms of story, the dialogue is brilliant too. It’s REALLY subtle in parts, there are unsaid jokes throughout the whole thing. My two favourites are in regards to how the family speak to Marta, the recently deceased’s nurse. When we first see her a member of the family comes up to her and says “I wanted you at the funeral, but the rest of the family voted against it”, and you feel “oh, well at least that family member is nice”, but then it happens again, and again, and again. Practically every family member says that to her. The other thing they say: her families country of origin. They all say different ones. Some say “your family came here from Ecuador”, whereas some describe her family as coming from Mexico. It’s a brilliantly subtle piece of writing that indicates how the family actually view her, and the fact it’s never explicitly pointed out is genius, once you realise it you’ll laugh every time it happens again. It was so subtle I expected it to be brought up later as a plot point and be flashbacked back to in a montage so you realise “oh yeah”, but it never was, and for that it deserves applause.
It’s not just the script though, the acting is brilliant too. It’s been marketed as an ensemble film but I wouldn’t really say that’s the case. There are definitely a few main characters, in reality, it’s more of an ensemble supporting cast. Some of the characters are entertaining but nowhere near enough is done with them. I can’t really go into more details without spoilers but trust me, there are some actors in this who deserve more.
If I had to say something bad about this film? I’d struggle to find something to be honest. The directing could be slightly better. It looks great, some of the images the film constructs are superb, but there is a feeling it could flow slightly better visually. Like if you took each shot individually it looks great, but put together they’re only okay. Compared to the way that someone like Edgar Wright does visuals and you get the feeling it’s somewhat lacking. For a normal film, this would be fine, and the shot constructions would lead to it looking fantastic. But for a film with performances and a script THIS good, it pales in comparison. The script is a 9.7/10, the directing is “only” a 7.9. Yeah, I’m really struggling to find bad things about this film if THAT’s what I’m going with. Go see it at the cinema, I’m probably going to do so again.