Now Streaming Review: Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?
The twenty-first century has been both the best of times and the worst of times for Agatha Christie’s adaptations. Some have been utter sludge that has gutted and twisted some of her finest books, and others have been brilliant and sparkling productions that have been glorious tributes to Christie’s legacy that deserved a spot on the awards and nominations lists. Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? is one of the good ones.
BritBox, the streaming service specializing in UK content, has commissioned a trio of Agatha Christie adaptations based on a fresh take on the classic stories. BritBox says these will be “steered by a distinctive voice – a director, a writer or auteur – bringing an entirely new perspective and style to Agatha Christie’s novels.” While these words might make some Christie purists (such as myself) nervous, the results for Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? are a delight. (At present, there is no news on what the next two adaptations will be or who is behind them.)
This adaptation is remarkably faithful to the book, aside from an additional murder at one point and a few changed settings that make for cinematic set pieces. The ultimate fate of a villain has also been changed, but I’d estimate this adaptation is 95% loyal to the source material, save for some altered dialogue.
The man behind Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? is Hugh Laurie, who not only wrote and directs the mystery but also plays a supporting role as an ominous doctor overseeing an asylum. Laurie clearly has a genuine affection for the material, and he manages to make the story of two young people investigating a series of odd events beginning with the mysterious death of a man falling off a cliff next to a golf course seem fresh and fun and lively, even for people who’ve read the book and/or seen both the previous adaptations (the Marple take on the story changed so much as to leave the end result largely unrecognizable).
Laurie hits the right notes, putting an emphasis on comedy without turning it into broad farce, and never forgets to keep up the suspense. It never gets too dark, but there’s always a sense of danger that keeps up the stakes. The young leads (Will Poulter and Lucy Boynton) are quite likable and have great chemistry as a team, and the other members of the cast all give strong character portrayals. The 1980 adaptation of similar length dragged a bit here and there, but this version flows pretty smoothly. It also looks terrific, and there are a few Easter eggs here and there, such as when Laurie slips a line from P.G. Wodehouse’s The Code of the Woosters into the dialogue.
This new production is good-natured entertainment, living up to Christie’s self-description as a “light-hearted thriller.” Laurie also deserves credit for making sure that clues critical to the viewer solving the mystery are clearly integrated into the script, not so obvious as to draw attention to them, but organically enough to be both fair and not too blatant. Christie fans should look forward to watching this new adaptation.
Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?