HomeAAPI ActorsMichelle Yeoh is at the center of A Haunting in Venice mystery

Michelle Yeoh is at the center of A Haunting in Venice mystery

By Jana Monji

Michelle’s Yeoh’s character sets the tone for A Haunting in Venice with her petite but chic figure set against a decaying, supposedly haunted palazzo.

Inspired by Agatha Christie’s 1969 novel Hallowe’en Party with a screenplay written by Michael Green (Blade Runner 2049 and Branagh’s first Poirot film Murder on the Orient Express, both in 2017) the film’s first departure from the book is the setting: Venice.

This is British actor Kenneth Branagh’s third outing as Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective Hercule Poirot

Yeoh plays the spiritual medium Mrs. Joyce Reynolds and there’s no attempt to explain her ethnicity. She is the initial reason for Poirot’s attendance at a children’s party given at a retired opera singer’s palazzo.

She arrives masked, but at the goading of Poirot’s American friend, novelist Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey), Poirot is intent on unmasking Reynolds as a fraud.

Oliver says, “I’ve seen a million of these so-called psychics, each one a fake.” Yet this one is different. Oliver asks Poirot to “spot the con I can’t.”

The year is 1947, two years after World War II ended. Poirot has retired, haunted by his own demons from surviving two world wars and having witnessed “the bitter evil of human indifference.”

Still famous, Poirot needs a bodyguard, Vitale Portfolio (Riccardo Scarmacio), to safeguard his peace from the many people pleading for Poirot to solve their murder mysteries.

The seance is to be held at a palazzo that was an orphanage in the past. The doctors and nurses left the children to die and it is the children’s spirits that haunt the place, now owned by a retired opera singer Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly).

Her housekeeper Olga Seminoff (Camille Cottin) is the only person willing to work in this haunted palazzo, yet tonight Rowena is hosting a Halloween party for children with fun and games like dunking for apples and a puppet story about the legend of the orphans who now supposedly haunt the place.

Yet there is perhaps, another restless spirit. Rowena’s daughter Alicia died in the palazzo, but was it murder or suicide?

That’s the question Rowena wants answered at the seance. Attending the seance are the Drake household which includes a doctor suffering from PTSD (Jamie Dornan) and his young son Leopold (Jude Hill), Rowena’s assistants Nicholas Holland (Ali Khan) and Desdemona Holland (Emma Laird), and Alicia’s jilted former fiancé Maxime Gerard (Kyle Allen).

Although Yeoh’s Mrs. Reynolds is one of the first to die and quite gruesomely, she’ll still be seen in flashbacks when Poirot unravels this mystery and the murders that happen on a dark and stormy night. Her petite figure contrasts Branagh’s Poirot. Her calm confidence and yet ambiguous presence set up some of the suspicious activities. Does she really contact the spirits or is she a clever fraud?

While I’ve previously objected to director Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot because he doesn’t fit the description as I detail in my reviews of his previous Poirot films (Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile ), this film still is entertaining and allows for the kind of diversity that there should be more of. Venice.

Ultimately, this is about Poirot finding faith and returning to sleuthing after uncovering fraud, murders and blackmail along the way.

A Haunting in Venice is more cerebral Halloween fare than shock and horror and the palazzo itself is almost a character. The film was released 15 September 2023 in the US and on 14 September 2023 in Singapore and on 13 September 2023 in South Korea. Currently in theaters only and is suitable for older children (PG-13).

For the full review, visit my blog AgeOfTheGeek.org. Like and follow AgeOfTheGeek.org to promote diverse voices in criticism.

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