Knives Out: a Celebration of Compassion and Originality


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By Noelia Veras

Rian Johnson’s latest film, Knives Out, is thrilling, mysterious, and extremely intricate. The film has been compared to the incredibly well renowned works of Agatha Christie. Knives Out has done particularly well with audiences and was nominated for Best Screenplay at the Oscars earlier this year. 

The film follows the death of famous mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey. Although his death appears to be a suicide the famous detective Benoit Blanc is hired anonymously to discover the true cause of death. The Thrombey family, Harlan’s nurse, and the house staff are all naturally very distraught, but since they were the only people in the house during Harlan’s death, they are all suspects. 

Marta, Harlan’s at-home nurse, is played by Ana de Armas. Her character is full of heart and compassion for others, especially for Harlan. She is originally  from an unnamed Latin American country and her mother is undocumented, a fact which comes into play because she is a part of the investigation of Harlan’s death; meaning that her family is in a particularly precarious situation because of the death of Harlan. 

Ironically, the Thrombey family claims to have adopted her into the family, but they all confuse where she is originally from. Each of them get the country of her origin wrong, confusing the audience as to where she is really from as well and revealing how little they actually care about her. They also all take turns telling her how they believe she should have been invited to the funeral, but they were outvoted by other family members, meaning many of them were definitely lying. 

Detective Blanc is an extremely dynamic and fun character. Blanc has a charming and sly southern drawl and a very sophisticated and almost silly vocabulary; he even quotes Sherlock Holmes throughout the film. Detective Blanc is quick to frustrate many of the Thrombey family members and manages to uncover many of the sore spots that they had in regards to Harlan. 

Both Marta and Blanc alternate as the protagonists of this film. This is facilitated well by the switches in genres. After the first act, Detective Blanc flips a coin and there is a close up on it as it flips in slow motion. The focus is solely on this coin, with a very shallow depth of field emphasizing a major change, namely the switching of genres. The first act is very clearly a murder mystery, but it then flips to more of a crime centric film. Thus, the murder story is revelaed within the first 30 minutes of the story, the rest of the film is more convoluted than what happened, because it follows how and why Harlan died. 

Knives Out is an incredibly intentional film. Every single frame was made with purpose. Every detail of this film matters. Subtle clues make up the film, such as the toss of a baseball, a glance at the floor, decorated eyeballs signaling a clue, and of course, the flip of a coin. The film is monumental and celebrates the value of originality. Overall, Knives Out keeps people on their toes, showing the audience familiar tropes and twisting them completely. This is a refreshing and rewarding film that appeals to a vast and diverse audience, and reveals the importance of compassion and empathy. 

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