Life & Culture

I Came By Film review: Graffiti warriors on the loose

Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville stars in this London-set thriller about two street artists' quest to get their own back on the city's wealthy elite


I Came By. (L to R) Hugh Bonneville as Hector, Franc Ashman as DS Lloyd in I Came By. Cr. Nick Wall/Netflix © 2022

I Came By
Cert 15 | ★★★✩✩

In 2016, writer-director Babak Anvari won a BAFTA award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer for his film Under The Shadows. The Persian-language psychological thriller was even selected as the British entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards, but it sadly missed out on an official nomination.

Anvari’s second feature was the deeply muddled and decidedly lacklustre body horror Wounds which came out in 2019.

Now the British- born Iranian filmmaker is back with a Netflix-produced thriller which he wrote in collaboration with up-and-coming TV writer Namsi Khan (His Dark Materials, The Midwich Cuckoos).

It stars Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), Kelly Macdonald (Trainspotting, No Country For Old Men) and George MacKay (True History of the Kelly Gang, 1917, Munich: The Edge of War).

Toby (MacKay) and Jay (Percelle Ascott) , two young and rebellious graffiti artists have made it their mission to get their own back on London’s wealthy elite by targeting their homes.

They often spray the words “I came by”. Toby is now targeting the home of Sir Hector Blake (Bonneville), a judge whom he suspects of faking his sudden very public “wokeness” and dubious claims to care about the marginalised.

Things start to spiral out of control for Toby when he is let down by soon-to-be new dad Jay, who refuses to join him in his mad quest to target the judge’s home.
At loggerheads wIth his widowed middle-class mum (Macdonald) and let down by his only friend, Toby decides to carry out his mission, but soon discovers a secret about Sir Hector, one with consequences for Toby.
Anvari’s film takes a very long time to get to a point where one is likely to be engaged by it, but once it does that, this is a very astute and original story.

It wouldn’t be half as interesting without Bonneville’s deliciously macabre delivery, but there are some very interesting ideas floating around, even if not all of them work.

MacKay is outstanding even if both he and Percelle are often let down by clunky, almost laughably facile dialogue.

MacDonald and Bonneville get all the best and funniest lines, and in the end one can’t help but root for this, flawed, yet hugely enjoyable thriller. Worth a watch.

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