Combustible Celluloid
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With: Gemma Chan, Carla Juri, Jamie Sives, Cal Macaninch, John Sessions, Predrag Bjelac, Jacob James Beswick
Written by: Daniel Alfredson, Birgitta Bongenhielm, based on a novel by Håkan Nesser
Directed by: Daniel Alfredson
MPAA Rating: R for some language, sexual content and violence
Running Time: 100
Date: 05/08/2020

Intrigo: Dear Agnes (2020)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Murder She Quote

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The second in a trilogy of murder mysteries based on novels by Swedish author Hakan Nesser, this, like the first, suffers from a certain chilliness of character and pacing, and it never quite clicks.

In Intrigo: Dear Agnes, Henny (Gemma Chan) is unhappily married to wealthy businessman Peter (Jamie Sives). She attends a funeral for the husband of an old childhood friend, teacher Agnes (Carla Juri). Agnes's husband was a wealthy older man, and while she wishes to keep their house, the man's grown children have inherited half of it, and intend to sell unless Agnes can come up with a huge amount of cash.

Henny re-connects with Agnes and tells her of her troubles. Having recently seen Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train, she suggests a solution: Henny will provide the money if Agnes will kill Peter. Meanwhile, flashbacks to their childhood reveal a more complex and troubled history between the two women.

Like the first entry, Intrigo: Death of an Author, Intrigo: Dear Agnes lets its seams show. It appears to have been constructed backward from the conclusion, but, as a result, quite a few of the events of the first half simply make very little sense. The intended surprises result in a "what?" rather than a "wow!" Moreover the men characters, both Peter and Agnes's husband's son are specifically designed to be so hateful that they barely seem real.

The women fare better. Both Chan and Juri give believable performances, especially in the way they allow their characters to age and mature from the flashbacks to the present. They go from giggly and care-free to burdened by the weight of the world. Yet Intrigo: Dear Agnes needed more than just these two interesting characters to work.

Strangers on a Train lingers over everything, and the comparison between Hitchcock's nimble, crackling thriller and this leaden one is all too evident. Even Danny DeVito's comedy version of the same story, Throw Momma from the Train, has more life in it.

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