‘Faithfully Yours’ (2023) Review: A Predictable Murder Mystery That Would Keep You Hooked

Murder mysteries are hardly ever uninteresting. We all grew up reading Agatha Christie’s novels. There was no way that they would not keep us hooked. Murder mysteries have taken various forms over the years. While some were successful, many were duds. Knives Out was one of a kind, but then we also had a film called The Girl On The Train, which was quite the “train” wreck. If murder mysteries are not done well and do not tickle your brain to figure out who the murderer might be, they become a bore. Faithfully Yours dangerously treads the line between being interesting and predictable, at the same time. But why? Written and directed by André van Duren; and other writers include Paul Jan Nelissen and Elisabeth Lodeizen, Faithfully Yours centers around a woman’s disappearance from the scene of a crime and her friends and family trying to get to the bottom of what happened to her. The film revolves around the quest that the cops take to solve this case. 

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The movie begins with Bodil Backer, who is a judge at a local court in the city of Antwerp and is living a happy life with her husband, Dr. Milan Saber, and son, Ben Saber. Bodil is on her way to Ostend for a weekend getaway at her aunt’s ancestral property with her best friend, Isabel. It has not been established how long the two have been friends, but judging by their interactions, it’s clear they have a close bond and would do anything for each other. Bodil and Isabel plan to go their separate ways upon reaching Ostend and become each other’s alibi by formulating perfect plans, so their husbands won’t suspect anything. Their plan so far has no loophole, but very soon into the trip Isabel’s suspicious husband requests that she come back to Antwerp as the man has injured himself. Isabel is on her way to pick up her phone, which she had requested Bodil to keep with her because she knows her husband Luuk has placed a tracker on her phone to monitor what his wife is up to. When Bodil comes back from a swim, she’s terrified to see a bloodied dog running out of her home. A petrified Bodil witnesses blood all over the front door, a couple of broken things, and Isabel’s suitcase. Isabel is nowhere to be found, and her phone is gone too.

Bodil, on the other hand, had plans for when she reached Ostend. She heads to a seminar and goes back home with the lead speaker of the talk. Now that Isabel’s disappearance has brought their husbands to Bodil’s place, she fears the involvement of the police and the number of lies she has to concoct. Where is Isabel? Is she dead or alive? That is the big question that only the investigation will answer.

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The movie begins with a good premise of two best friends becoming each other’s alibi, which is an interesting setup. Best friends want to be there for each other no matter what in the time of adversity is the film’s core. Bodil was aware that Isabel might have another partner because her husband, Luuk, was a control freak, and Isabel was trying hard to get out of the marriage. The narrative of women standing by women has been explored engagingly in the film. The screenplay by André van Duren, Paul Jan Nelissen, and Elisabeth Lodeizen generates enough interest in this crime thriller throughout the first half of the film. As we enter the second half, the story and screenplay become too predictable, as the setup made by the writers makes it too easy to guess who might be the killer and who was the target. 

The manner in which the story is treated comes across as an easy solution. No murder mystery should be this easy. There must be a thorough motive, and even to conclude on the motivation, the execution of the scene must be in such a way that there is no confusion regarding what pushed the suspect to carry out this ghastly act. As the story progressed toward Bodil trying to find out who the murderer might be, a lot of revelations come across as weak elements, added only for shock value and not to take the narrative forward. The twists and turns in the plot become exhausting. Even though the film’s running time is close to one hour and forty minutes, the unnecessary deviations only made the viewer impatient in wanting to know who the culprit is. In such cases, the screenplay must be tight, but in this film, it came across as sloppy. The movie was quite enjoyable until one person who was being built up to be the culprit, and the next second, the build up was crushed because the writers were trying to mess with your mind. Yes, this is a classic technique to deviate, but since the screenplay was predictable and one could sense who the person would be, everything in between did not make any sense at all. The movie began with a good premise but soon became too predictable. That ending was just not satisfying enough.

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As a story set in a fancy city in Europe, one was expecting some hardcore murder mystery, but the film took too much time to come to an acceptable conclusion. A lot of aspects could have been covered instead. Isabel’s marriage to Luuk was just explored through a few dialogues; a lot could be said about what makes their marriage so unbearable. There was no explanation regarding why Bodil cheated on her husband, and what was her purpose of looking for comfort outside of her marriage? The film establishes that they are married and trying to have some fun, but the screenplay should be able to expand on what is wrong with their existing marriage. The cinematography by Josje Van Erkel is exquisite because, through his camera, we get to see not just the beautiful cities, but the dual lives people lead to escape from their mundane existence. 

Faithfully Yours could have been a fascinating story if the writers and director had not tried to indulge way too far in bringing in unnecessary plot twists and turns. Even with these intricate plot points, the movie felt vanilla. You can give it a watch on a lazy Friday evening over a glass of wine just for the European feel, but overall, the film is hit-and-miss.

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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Faithfully Yours could have been a fascinating story if the writers and director had not tried to indulge way too far in bringing in unnecessary plot twists and turns. 'Faithfully Yours' (2023) Review: A Predictable Murder Mystery That Would Keep You Hooked