Review | ‘The Origin of Evil’ offers thrilling, melodramatic black comedy

The Origin of Evil | Dir: Sébastien Marnier | ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ 

Stéphane (Laure Calamy) works in a sardine cannery and is struggling financially. She has regular conjugal visits with her girlfriend (Suzanne Clement), who has been found guilty of pushing her previous lover off a balcony to her death and is now in jail.

Stéphane’s landlady is throwing her out of the room she is renting and the only person she has to turn to is a previous girlfriend, who has also spent time in prison. But she has a change of fortune when she makes contact with the wealthy father Serge (Jacques Weber) she has never known.

Travelling to his lavish seaside home, it is a touching reunion and she also meets his wife extravagant Louise (Dominique Blanc), his brusque daughter George (Doria Tillier) who runs his business and his spoilt granddaughter Jeanne (Celeste Brunnquell), none of whom are thrilled to see her.

There is also the scary housekeeper Agnes (Veronique Ruggia) who is part of the power struggles between the ailing patriarch and his dysfunctional descendants. While Stéphane ingratiates herself with her newly-found father, her imprisoned girlfriend is frustrated because she is being neglected and she is desperate to find out what Stéphane is up to.

It is not clear whether Stéphane wants her father’s love or his money, but the wife and the daughter are certainly plotting to optimise their future wealth. The granddaughter just wants to get away, and correctly notes that “family is the worst thing in the world”.

The characters are delightfully over the top in this melodramatic black comedy, while the twists and turns of the thriller narrative reveal delicious secrets to keep everyone guessing over its two-hour running time.

The wily Serge may have had a stroke but he is trying to use the latest addition to his family to outwit the plotting that is going on around him. At the centre of this French thriller is the mesmerising Laure Calamy’s fascinating character goes from sweet to dastardly and back again, just to keep everyone on their toes.

Lezly Herbert

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