His friend, solicitor Gilbert Entwhistle, asks Hercule Poirot to help solve a riddle and a murder. The riddle has to do with Richard Abernethie's will. It would seem that he changed his will immediately prior to his death, distributing all of his wealth equally among family members but excluding George Abernethie who, in all previous wills, had been the sole beneficiary. The two had supposedly argued recently, but Entwhistle suspects the new will may be a forgery. As for the murder, he would like Poirot to investigate the death of Cora Galaccio, who was violently beaten to death the day after Richard's funeral. She too had inherited from the suspect will, but are the two deaths and the will all part of a greater plot, or is there a simpler explanation? Written by
As I recall from the time more than ten years ago when I read "After the Funeral," the book left me underwhelmed for some reason -- moreso than it should've, considering its criminal scheme is a neat idea, and a very Christie-ish one. A few bits do stand out in my memory, namely "Goodie! I shall go to Capri.", and The Willow Tree.
This Suchet film version smartly preserves these for the most part, and is one of the less flawed episodes of the 21st century wave. The basic clues to reach the bottom of the mystery are there, but the movie could draw better attention to them. Our chance to recognize them is too quick and oblique. A few brief mystery subplots are basically revealed to us only for surprise, without clues and detective work.
The story is disadvantaged by the way it revolves around rich, self-absorbed people whining and backbiting about their inheritances. Especially in an age of economic recession, this is a very unimportant topic to watch in a movie. Certainly it's hard to relate to this topic or have sympathy for the characters.
However, the film compensates for this with witty consideration of the theme of England's class system and the status of servants. At the center of this is the Gilchrist character, paid companion and doer of light housework for a bohemian woman who's at least somewhat connected to her wealthy family. Gilchrist insists (with a touch of snobbery) that she has never considered herself a servant. Unfortunately for her, other snobby characters presumptuously treat her like one.
Along this line, one of the most interesting, complex characters is Susannah Henderson, apparently a reworking of a book character. Despite being the only member of the Abernethie clan whose life work is that of charity, Henderson herself is not free of snobbery.
She seems to very much believe in her mission. She puts her money where her mouth is, willing to move to Africa to do her charity work. She also speaks sympathetically of derided characters like Cora Gallaccio.
Yet Henderson has a bit of an air to her. Watch how, when she arrives at Gilchrist's house, she wordlessly holds up her suitcase, expecting Gilchrist to take it as if she were a maid, rather than her hostess. Apparently a young lady from a rich family expects this of a lower class paid companion. Throughout her time at Gilchrist's house, Henderson also ignores or interrupts her even while acting with nominal friendliness.
I could've done without the bit of anti-abortionism injected at one point (and not for the only time this season). If the character who injects this sentiment hates the "sordidness" of back alley abortion clinics so much, perhaps the answer is to advocate for safe, legal clinics and social acceptance.
Like other recent Poirots, humor is deemphasized, but there are some nice touches of Poirot's fussiness and vanity during some of his exchanges with Entwhistle.
(Entwhistle meanwhile is a dull Hastings stand-in who also serves the opening exposition about all the suspects, a group from an extensive family tree who are done no favors by the rushed, confusing intro.)
My favorite humor here is something that's almost a running gag but which is probably unintentional. You kind of have to look for it. Under the pretense of staying at the Abernethie mansion to investigate the murder (which didn't even take place anywhere near there), Poirot seems to enjoy frequent snacks and tea breaks at a cloth-covered table on the terrace, at the Abernethies' expense. He has a good gig going on.
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