Crooked House is a British-American mystery film directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, based on Agatha Christie’s 1949 novel of the same name. The film stars Max Irons, Terence Stamp, Glenn Close, Gillian Anderson, and Stefanie Martini. Principal photography began in September 2016, and the film aired in the UK on Channel 5 on 17 December 2017.
The granddaughter of late Greek-British business tycoon Aristide Leonides, Sophia Leonides, visits private investigator Charles Hayward in his office. Sophia wants Charles to investigate Aristide’s death, for she believes he was murdered by a member of his sprawling and idiosyncratic family. Sophia notes that Aristide’ regular insulin injection had been laced with eserine from his eye drops, causing a fatal heart attack. Sophia believes this was deliberate, not accidental. Charles reluctantly takes on the case, in part because he had a brief love affair with Sophia in Cairo. Charles seeks the consent of Chief Inspector Taverner of Scotland Yard to look into the case, utilising his personal connection with Taverner, who had served with Charles’s father, a decorated former Assistant Commissioner who was murdered.
At the Leonides estate, Charles interviews the various members of the family, finding motives for each of them. All of them get substantial bequests from Aristide’s estate. All of them knew about the eserine: Aristide talked about how it could be used to kill him. All of them resented the way he bullied and manipulated them.
Lady Edith de Haviland was the sister of Aristide’s late first wife; she moved in to care for her motherless nephews. She despised her brother-in-law as a parvenu and for his callousness towards his grandchildren. Edith stalks around the grounds, blasting moles in the lawn with a shotgun.
Aristide’s elder son, Philip, hated his father for passing him over as successor to the family business, and for refusing to fund production of a screenplay Philip wrote for his wife, Magda, a fading theatre actress.
Philip and Magda provided Aristide with three grandchildren: Sophia, Eustace (a teenager crippled by polio, who believes his grandfather despised him), and Josephine (a clever 12-year-old, who spies on everyone and writes it down in her notebook).
The younger son, Roger, is managing director of a major family business, but is a failure, requiring multiple bail-outs from Aristide. His domineering wife Clemency is a plant biologist with extensive knowledge of poisons.
Aristide’s second wife, Brenda, is much younger, a former Las Vegas casino dancer. The others suspect her of killing Aristide, especially Roger, who denounces her as a gold-digging slut and certainly guilty. She did administer the fatal insulin injection. Also, she is having an affair with Laurence Brown, private tutor for the Leonides children. And when Aristide’s will is produced, it is unsigned. Thus he died intestate, and Brenda will inherit his entire estate.
Charles’s inquiries meet with hostility from most of the family. Josephine hints that she has found clues she does not disclose, to Charles’s irritation. Events take a new, horrific turn when the ladder to Josephine’s treehouse is sabotaged and she falls from the tree, being hospitalised as a result. Charles suspects that this was due to Josephine’s habit of spying on the other family members and the killer thus wanting to silence her.
Charles’ suspicions even extend to Sophia after a new, properly signed will is discovered, leaving the estate to her. Eustace even suggests that Sophia hired Charles to investigate the murder due to their personal history, knowing he would never accuse her due to their romantic past.
After those developments, Taverner arrives in person to take charge of the case; he feels Charles’ romantic history with Sophia does not make him objective enough to solve it. The discovery of love letters between Brenda and Laurence gives Taverner enough evidence to arrest them for Aristide’s murder and the attempt on Josephine.
Charles, however, remains unconvinced that Brenda and Laurence are guilty, noting Brenda’s childlike intelligence and Laurence’s pacifist, left-wing views as making them unlikely candidates for being a murderer. Sophia and Edith seem to agree. Sophia notes that the letters could have been forged, and Edith insists on “the best lawyer” to represent Brenda and Laurence. In the meantime, however, Charles returns to London. Edith visits a London doctor, and learns she is dying of cancer. Charles returns to the estate when Josephine’s nanny is fatally poisoned by hot chocolate that she had prepared for herself and Josephine.
Charles implores Josephine to name the killer, as he has worked out that she knows. Again, Josephine smugly refuses to tell, even when Charles warns her that she is in danger. Edith collects Josephine, and drives out of the estate (supposedly for ice cream), lying to get past the police at the gate.
The coroner finds that the nanny died of cyanide poisoning, Charles suspects Edith, who used cyanide to kill moles. He searches Edith’s garden shed, and finds a bottle of cyanide; also Josephine’s missing notebook, buried in quicklime that would have destroyed it.
Just then, Sophia tells him that Edith has left with Josephine. Charles and Sophia take off in pursuit of Edith, who left a note for Charles to find in his car. Sophia reads Edith’s note: it is a confession to the murder, but Charles doesn’t believe it.
Sophia then starts reading from Josephine’s notebook, and discovers the horrible truth: Josephine murdered Aristide. He had stopped her ballet lessons (with insulting comments), and she was bored. Josephine also staged her fall from the treehouse, poisoned the nanny, who had begun to suspect her, and forged Brenda’s love letters. Lady Edith had worked out that Josephine was the killer. She confessed to exonerate Brenda and Laurence, and perhaps to spare Josephine a life in psychiatric institutions. But Edith isn’t taking Josephine for ice cream. As Charles and Sophia catch up, she drives off the edge of a quarry, killing herself and Josephine. The film ends as Charles comforts a shocked Sophia at the edge of the cliff.
Glenn Close as Lady Edith de Haviland
Terence Stamp as Chief Inspector Taverner
Max Irons as Charles Hayward
Stefanie Martini as Sophia Leonides
Julian Sands as Philip Leonides
Honor Kneafsey as Josephine Leonides
Christian McKay as Roger Leonides
Amanda Abbington as Clemency Leonides
Gillian Anderson as Magda Leonides
Christina Hendricks as Brenda Leonides
Preston Nyman as Eustace Leonides
John Heffernan as Laurence Brown
Jenny Galloway as Nanny
Jacob Fortune-Lloyd as Brent
David Kirkbride as Sergeant Glover
Tina Gray as Miss Ackroyd
Roger Ashton-Griffiths as Mr Gaitskill
Andreas Karras as Iannois Agrodopolous
Gino Picciano as Aristide Leonides
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