A few years ago, television revisions of Agatha Christie novels almost became a trend. It happened through the efforts of screenwriter and producer Sarah Phelps, whose film adaptations added to the gloom, gravitas and the number of stars.

The apotheosis of this project was The Alphabet Murders, where John Malkovich played Hercule Poirot. In the three years that have passed since then, only Kenneth Branagh, who traditionally prefers to crush the viewer with luxury, was engaged in Agatha Christie. The next return of the name of the writer in the serial title is arranged in the best way: none other than Hugh Laurie took up the matter. It was he who, as an author’s television debut, wrote and directed a new three-episode adaptation of Christie’s not the most popular novel, Why Not Evans?

1936, coastal town somewhere in Wales. Young Bobby Jones (Will Poulter), a former military man and the son of a local vicar, dreams of opening a used car shop, and in his spare time assists wealthy citizens in the game of golf. During the next match, an unknown person falls from a cliff, who, before dying, says one phrase to Bobby who descended to him: “Why not Evans?”. The police who arrived at the scene are trying to hush up the case, but Bobby senses that something is unclean here and, with the support of his childhood friend Frankie (Lucy Boynton), begins his own investigation.

Hugh Laurie’s retromania has long been nothing new to viewers. The actor, who became the face of the first wave of the serial boom, never hid that he was extremely prone to nostalgia, as, by the way, his hero, Dr. Gregory House. Laurie himself a dozen years ago also recorded two albums of blues standards – so what could be expected from his directorial work, if not a detailed dedication to the past? The director admits that the main source of inspiration for him was The Thin Man in 1934, an adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s novel about detective spouses in love. It was from there that the lightness of intonation and indestructible irony migrated, penetrating even the darkest episodes (and here there is even a little torture with electricity).

Laurie’s filming is not so much a detective as it is a collection of greatest hits from the classic film era, a sort of revue series. The director is well aware that Christie’s novels are arranged in such a way that in the finale there will still be a scene in which it will be explained at length and in detail what happened after all. Moreover, the solution will most likely be rather unpredictable, so you don’t have to worry about the harmony of the story. The series deals with the central intrigue defiantly freely, devoting much more time to lyrical digressions. The camera admires the well-dressed characters, who pause for a long time after successful witticisms. The villains effectively and mysteriously disappear, turning into either Munchian or Magritte characters. As an apotheosis, a photo important for the plot suddenly comes to life, hinting that Laurie did not shoot on black and white film only out of respect for the customer. As for the genre, it too mutates nonchalantly from an almost Dickensian upbringing novel into rustic thriller, spectacular film noir, and—of course—finishes almost vaudeville. Well, for the most devoted of his fans, the director has prepared his own exit in the last episode – of course, in the role of an infernal doctor.

Photo: BritBox