Friday, July 24, 2020

TV Movie Review - Agatha and the Truth of Murder

Agatha and the Truth of Murder
Starring: Stacha Hicks, Joshua Silver, Ruth Bradley, Michael McElhatton, Liam McMahon, Clare McMahon, Pippa Haywood, Brian McCardie, Amelia Dell, Richard Doubleday, Derek Halligan, Samantha Spiro, Blake Harrison, Tim McInnerny, Bebe Cave, Dean Andrews, Seamus O'Hara, and Ralph Ineson
Release Date: December 23rd, 2018
Rating: ★★★
To Watch

Agatha Christie has asked Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for help. She needs to know how one pushes through writer's block. She doesn't want her career to be over just when it's starting. His oblique advice is to design a golf course. Though Agatha does attempt this it's not very successful given the real reason she's blocked; her husband Archie wants a divorce because he wants to marry his mistress. Who just happens to be a golfer. The perfect antidote to her problem arrives on her doorstep in the form of Mabel Rogers. Six years previously the love of Mabel's life, Florence Nightingale Shore, was brutally attacked on a train and succumbed to her injuries days later with Mabel by her side. Mabel has spent the last six years devoting her life to solving the murder of Florence and has come to Christie believing she can help. At first Agatha is disinterested, but then realizes that this might be just the thing to fix her writer's block. They decide to lure the suspects to a country house with the incentive that they might get a share in a large inheritance. Agatha will be "Mary Westmacott" a representative of the law firm sent to validate the claimants legitimacy and suitability, with many questions needing answering, in order to figure out who might be a murderer. Mabel will act as an all-round servant, able to root through the guests possessions when they are otherwise engaged. The suspects are a young nurse, whom Florence censured, Florence's cousin, whom inherited Florence's not inconsiderable estate, a solider, a boxer, and a mother whom Florence was intending to visit before her untimely death. Agatha and Mabel have set it up just like one of Christie's novels, get all the suspects together and find out who the guilty party is. The only problem is their ruse results in the death of one of their suspects. So now they have a second murder to solve as their time runs short. There's only so long they can hold their suspects and the outside world has gone mad with Christie's disappearance! They must catch the culprits AND get Agatha out of the news with her timely reappearance as soon as possible.    

Agatha and the Truth of Murder is based on the clever conceit of taking two real life mysteries and having the investigation of one being the reason for the other. The first mystery is the murder of Florence Nightingale Shore in 1920, which this film postulates Agatha Christie as solving during her 1926 disappearance. It's complete fabrication, they don't even stick too closely to the actual facts, especially where suspects are concerned, but for it's entertainment value it's a fun diversion in the style of Christie's own work. Though what faults it has could have been easily fixed. The movie's problems, like the mysteries, number two. Firstly there needed to be a better understanding of exactly who Florence Nightingale Shore was. She was an amazing woman, a war hero, a nurse as formidable as her godmother and namesake. Yet we only see a glimpse of her at the beginning of the film when she's attacked and then learn secondhand through her friend Mabel Rogers about the crime and only a little about the woman she loved. How can we care about Florence's murder if the character isn't grounded? This wouldn't have taken much to solve, just a little more exposition instead of passing over her to get to Agatha as fast as they could. And that speed is the second problem, the pacing is all off in this film. The narrative is rushed. I defy anyone to actually know whose country house the investigation is taking place in and how all the suspects are connected to Florence Nightingale Shore before the revelation of the killer who you can't see coming and then the final denouement! The filmmakers were too intent on getting everyone closeted away from the world, cloistered in that big house just like Agatha Christie would do in one of her own books that they forgot that as an author she always made her books accessible. If you paid close enough attention you could solve it. Everything made sense. Here it's just a jumble whirling around you like an out of control ride at an amusement park. That's not to say it isn't fun, it just isn't as satisfying an experience as it could have been if a little more care had gone into making it. 


This sounds like it had it's origins as a movie about Christie teaming up with Doyle to solve a mystery. It sounds like the film becomes more like a conventional BBC detective show when Mabel appears.

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