Review by Joseph Fayed
The ultra wealthy tend to be portrayed out-of-touch individuals who don't understand life outside their own circle of the elite. The Origin of Evil has the same type of family, with the addition of an outsider in the form of an estranged family member. Tensions flare as the French drama directed by Sébastien Marnier leaves you questioning the motives of everyone during this abrupt family reunion.
Stéphane (Laure Calamy) is financially struggling. She is working a dead-end factory job and her lover is incarcerated. She reaches out to her estranged father to get to know the family she never had. No one is quick to embrace her into their mold as the family and Stéphane begin to wonder if she is truly one of them.
Deplorable behavior is what draws the family together. The cast proved that with their performances to various degrees. Many of our characters are either enablers or abusive themselves so we are spared from having any sort of forced empathy try to overshadow their lifestyle. Our helpless protagonist Stéphane is the one hiding in plain sight, Calamy has a reserved approach to her character. Later scenes utilize her talent to expose the anxiety she has brought upon herself. But the script manages to do all of this without drawing too much pity for Stéphane, a smart choice as she tries to become what she never had.
The film intertwines elements of Knives Out and The Talented Mr. Ripley for the characterizations of its ensemble. Lavish wealth and having a safety net so secure they don't think twice about their actions remind you of the former. Meanwhile, Stéphane feels as if she is living in a facade and must lie her way out of like Tom Ripley always did. These films also deal with wealth management and what power over it does to individuals, as no one has a change of heart until their lifestyle has changed. That message is rooted in money, which consistently is the driving factor behind every decision made on screen in this film. The consequences seem far-fetched, and every character is guilty of embracing that mentality.
The Origin of Evil is more than just a blanket statement about generational wealth. Greed is embraced within this film as insecurity is an unknown concept to our characters. The flashy lifestyle on screen isn't what makes a family dysfunctional. Rather, it's the betrayal of each other every chance they have. Nothing is over the top ridiculous outside of a few set pieces and the score ripping off more classic mystery thrillers. Cinematography choices by Romain Carcanade were wise in certain scenes that framed a split screen to showcase everyone's own desires to fulfill their life. Ultimately, Marnier's thriller is a great example of wealth that does not cover how an empire was built, but how fragile it truly can be.
The Origin of Evil arrives in theaters on September 22.