If you didn’t know that a Netflix movie titled “I Came By” was released a little over a week ago, you would not be alone. Netflix seems to have adopted a quantity-over-quality release strategy, producing as much content as they can with the least amount of marketing possible. If a film is not a big-budget action spectacle or possible awards-season contender, it’ll fall into near complete obscurity and will only ever be discovered during a bored, late-night deep dive into the Netflix catalog. Though this might not sound like the most equitable way of releasing films, watching “I Came By” may prove that there is a silver lining to Netflix’s illogical business tactics: Thankfully, most people will be spared from having to go through the displeasure of watching this film.
In the first act of “I Came By,” we are led to believe that the main character is 23-year-old Toby (George MacKay), the only child of Lizzie (Kelly Macdonald), a widow. He spends his days locked in his room and his nights breaking into wealthy people’s homes with the help of his friend Jay (Percelle Ascott) to spray paint the phrase, “I came by” on a wall. Things start to fall apart when Jay’s girlfriend becomes pregnant and he can no longer risk getting into trouble, so he leaves the operation, turning Toby into a solo actor. Toby begins snooping around the house of wealthy judge Hector Blake (Hugh Bonneville), but as he explores the home, sinister secrets reveal themselves. He is reckless in his search and, as a result, his presence is made known to Blake. After the break-in, Toby goes missing. The remainder of the film follows Lizzie and Jay as they try to find out what happened to Toby, all while the sinister life of Hector Blake is further uncovered.
Through its usage of the “sinister-captor-who-is-seemingly-a-functioning-member-of-society” trope, “I Came By” places itself in a canon already full of some pretty heavy hitters. Whether it be the deeply unsettling “Silence of the Lambs,” the genre-defining modern classic “Get Out” or the underappreciated and darkly comedic take on the cliche “Fresh,” talented filmmakers have shown that movies about psychopathic killers can be compelling, entertaining and frightening. “I Came By” is none of these things. There is no interesting dive into the mind of Hector Blake, with the closest attempt being a weirdly out-of-place scene in which Blake watches “Rick and Morty” with a TV dinner in his lap. Say what you want about whether or not this cartoon show does in fact inspire psychopathy, but this scene alone is not adequate enough exposition to clue the viewer in on the intentions of the film’s main antagonist. Every other character introduction is equally shallow and conforms to tired archetypes. Toby’s hatred of his mother is attributed to vague daddy issues, Lizzie is a therapist whose relationship with her son is bleeding into her sessions and Jay really has to let you know he’s about to be a father and can no longer break into houses.
What’s more, the crimes the duo commits at the beginning of the film are so high-risk yet so utterly benign that it makes no sense why they would engage in them in the first place. Still, the unlikeliness of these characters’ actions is not the issue. Instead, the problem lies in the film’s portrayal of these actions as a grand stand against the evil benefactors of a corrupt society, when in reality, they are just giving a half-assed middle finger to the one percent. These crimes are a perfect allegory for this movie: Thinking that you’re making a big impact, but really saying next to nothing.
There is nothing particularly terrible per se to point out in this movie: The actors are all talented and do the best they can with the script, the camerawork is competently executed and the dialogue is stiff at times, but nothing is overly glaring. While this movie on paper may not appear terrible, somehow it manages to elicit nothing other than apathy from the viewer. You can fault Icarus for his plunge into the sea, but at least he had the drive to get up and fly in the first place. “I Came By” is the bystander sitting on the beaches of Crete watching the fall from a safe distance. Sure, it didn’t fail, but it also didn’t attempt to do much of anything. A movie that fails at what it strives for is not necessarily a more enjoyable watch, but at least it can be respected for making an effort. “I Came By” takes every cliche in the book and regurgitates them in the most uninteresting way possible. The story doesn’t end, it just fizzles away.
Finn Kirkpatrick is an arts & culture editor. He is a sophomore from Los Angeles, California intending to study Comparative Literature who likes to review movies and other things of that sort.