Originally a television movie in the UK in 2018, Terry Loane's Agatha and the Truth of Murder arrives stateside on April 7th with indie distributor Vision Films for a VOD release on platforms including Vudu, Hoopla, and FandangoNow, as well as cable affiliates including Comcast, Spectrum, Charter, Cox, Verizon, Frontier, Dish, and DirectTV. The DVD will then be available on April 21, 2020 from all major online retailers.
Agatha and the Truth of Murder is an imaginary tale that weaves together two historically accurate events - the 11-day disappearance of beloved mystery writer Agatha Christie in December 1926 and the true to life murder of one Florence Nightingale Shore, the real life god-daughter of Florence Nightingale who was returning to the UK after a wartime stint as a nurse when she was beaten to death on the train returning home.
Written by Tom Dalton, Agatha and the Truth of Murder imagines that these two events are intertwined, Christie, struggling amidst a raging case of writer's block, her husband's known infidelity, and a pending divorce, enticed into using her literary sleuthing abilities to explore the unsolved murder of Shore by Mabel Rogers (Pippa Haywood, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), Shore's surviving partner who grieves both her loss and the lack of justice in the case.
Portrayed by IFTA (Irish Film & TV Awards) winning actress Ruth Bradley (Humans, Guilt), Christie goes undercover by the name of Mrs. Mary Westmacott, a name familiar to Christie fans familiar with Absent in the Spring and Giants' Bread, and initiates a very Christie-like investigation that involves assembling the primary suspects at a country-set mansion under the guise of distributing the wealth of a recently deceased family member.
Unfortunately for Christie, or Mrs. Westmacott if you will, investigations that work well on the written page aren't always as cut-and-dry in real life and she soon discovers her investigation carries with it considerable assumed risk.
Agatha and the Truth of Murder is an enjoyable cinematic feast for Christie fans and for fans of British television, though anyone expecting a grand visual spectacle will be sorely disappointed. If you've ever watched a BBC series, then you have some idea of what to expect as this is actor-driven, intelligent drama made for adults with nary an ounce of trumped up drama or histrionics to be found anywhere. Bradley's an absolute gem here, giving us remarkable depth for Christie while certainly emphasizing substance more than style. Bradley's Christie lacks Christie's usual sophisticated charisma, but also humanizes her greatly and pulls you deeply into her life. Christie's real-life disappearance in 1926 sparked a nationwide manhunt involving thousands of officers and Bradley nicely captures both the conflicting layers of a woman whose disappearance caused nationwide chaos while she herself remained fiercely dedicated to obtaining justice for Ms. Shore.
Pippa Haywood is appropriately impassioned as Mabel Rogers, while Christie's select list of potential suspects in Shore's murder includes Travis Pickford (Blake Harrison, A Very English Scandal), a thief who had potentially targeted Ms. Shore, and Randolph (Tim McInnerney, Outlander), Florence's cousin who struggled with her relationship with Mabel. Ralph Ineson (The Witch) gives the film a needed spark of energy as Detective Inspector DIcks, whose insights prove quite complementary alongside Christie.
Agatha and the Truth of Murder isn't brilliant cinema, though it's rather sublime as a "hunkered down in the house" weekend kind of view or some late night, rainy day mystery pleasure with solid performances across the board and an enveloping atmosphere that allows you to escape for the film's just over 90-minute running time. Andrew Simon McAllister's original score fits the entire affair quite nicely, while Ashleigh Jeffers' production design hits all the right Christie notes. Damien Elliott's lensing is effective throughout.
While it's difficult to say just how long COVID-19 will continue to impact our daily lives, the April 7th release on VOD of Agatha and the Truth of Murder in the U.S. and Canada should prove a satisfying viewing alternative for Agatha Christie fans and those who appreciate British television and cinema.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic