I decided to do a Michael Fassbender double header.
[And this is actually my third entry in which he is the relevant male relation (he’s starting to rival Max Thieriot!) if you’ll recall my cursory write-up on Prometheus. In that film he was the adopted robot brother, a major stretch on the theme of this blog, and I’m afraid the topical relationship of this entry is cousins, but I hope you’ll give me a chance to explain to you why you should still be interested.]
First I want to say, very happily, that unlike most situations in which the incest is canon, the couple I am going to talk about in this entry are highly shippable. I find it hard to imagine that someone wouldn’t want them to be together.
After The Funeral is not technically a movie (though I will treat it like one) – it’s an episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot, a long-running (1989-present, it’s ending soon, I believe) series on ITV (UK) of adaptations of British authoress/murder mystery queen Agatha Christie’s novels featuring her most famous detective Hercule Poirot.
I have a long history with Agatha Christie (1890-1976), who is, without a doubt, my favorite author. After reading Murder on the Orient Express (her most famous work) for school I spent one glorious summer devouring her entire oeuvre (some 60+novels). I literally read one book a day. You cannot imagine the despair when I ran out of them.
Typically I have not enjoyed the film/TV adaptations of Agatha Christie’s works. They never quite captured the intrigue of the novels, and the production values were typically rather low. Always great sets and scenery, of course (a British privilege), solid acting, but poor picture quality. (Just look at the series premiere of new Doctor Who – “Rose” was filmed in 2005 but it looks like it was made in 1991. I don’t think they started filming in HD until 2009 or so.)
I had only seen a couple when After the Funeral (season 10, episode 3 of Agatha Christie’s Poirot) fell quite by happenstance into my view, and the circumstances were such that I did not have much else to watch or else I might not even have bothered. What a tragedy that would have been because honestly this is one of my favorite movies (though that’s a very long list), one of my favorite canon incest relationships (definitely my favorite involving cousins) and most definitely my favorite Agatha Christie screen adaptation. (I’ve seen it from beginning to end probably five times at least, and some of the other parts I’ve watched countless times.)
Ironically the incest (cousincest, but again, quite worth your interest) is an innovation of the adaptation and is not a part of the original novel. I am not one of those people who always say no matter what that the book is better and who has disdain for all adaptations, but in the case of Agatha Christie I have always preferred the experience of the book.
However, knowing that the writers of Agatha Christie’s Poirot were tossing in some racier material made me rethink my policy. (I appreciate how little need Agatha Christie had of resorting to anything profane in order to make her novels more entertaining – but I really can’t object to a bit more scandalous sex, especially if it’s incest:However I had only watched a couple more adaptations before I decided that my original instinct had been correct.
As for Agatha Christie’s original content, there are a couple brushes with incest but nothing to get excited about. In Sleeping Murder, a sister is murdered by her possessive/controlling brother. In Ordeal By Innocence, a foster brother and sister fall in love. (Possibly my favorite of her romantic storylines.) And in two others (at least), a couple masquerades as brother and sister, and of course the fact that they’re actually a couple and not brother and sister is never revealed until the end. But out of so many dozens of novels that’s hardly a trend.
I call After The Funeral a movie and not an episode because it is 1.5 hours and is adapted from a full length novel. Poirot tends to take a backseat – of course he has a personality and conversations and friends, but he doesn’t usually have a plotline of his own – which means there’s that much more focus on the characters involved in the mystery. It’s their story, not Poirot’s. And there’s always more to their story than just whether or not they were guilty of the murder. They have lives and multiple relationships and are relatively well-rounded. These “episodes” also stand alone perfectly, which is the key.
And I can’t speak for the other adaptations, because After The Funeral is the only one that I have paid a great deal of attention to, but After The Funeral is well-detailed in really a quite wonderful way. What I mean is that it has a lot of small touches that really add to the whole. For example there are these adorable two servants who flirt with each other at the very beginning. It makes the movie that much more fun to watch. And it also makes it that much more different from an episode of an hour-long procedural TV show.
It’s one of Agatha Christie’s primary recipes: a wealthy patriarch dies, everyone in the family is a suspect. In this particular case that rich old man is Richard Abernethie. He is survived by his brother Leo’s widow, Helen,
and son, George (Michael Fassbender); his sister Geraldine’s two daughters – Susannah Henderson (Lucy Punch) and Rosamund (who is married to Michael Shane); his younger brother Timothy and wife, Maude; and his youngest sister Cora. Helen is a very good woman, kind and loving. George has a penchant for drinking and gambling, the typical wayward young man you find in Christie’s works. Susannah, conscientious, has a passion for humanitarian work. Rosamund and Michael are actors, preoccupied with success on the stage and hiding their troubled marriage. Timothy is a hypochondriac invalid who was estranged from Richard, and Maude waits on him hand and foot. And Cora is also estranged from the family after having run off with an Italian painter named Giovanni Gallaccio, from whom she is now divorced. She lives with a companion, Miss Gilchrest, in a village called Lychett St. Mary.The family comes together to the Abernethie family estate (called Enderby) for Richard’s funeral, and everyone is shocked when Cora implies that Richard was murdered. The reading of the will is also full of surprises: the favored nephew George was expected to get “the lion’s share” but he was disinherited entirely, the assets to be divided evenly amongst the others.
The next day Cora is murdered in her cottage in a very obviously faked robbery-gone-wrong. At this point Gilbert Entwhistle, the family’s solicitor and executor of Richard Abernethie’s will, calls on the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot to take the case. (Poirot is a delightful character, full of adorable eccentricities. He is kind-hearted, considerate, and brilliant, though not particularly humble. He always keeps his thoughts to himself and then reveals everything in a very dramatic fashion at the very end. He often has everything figured out early on but has to wait for proof, or to fill in some of the smaller details. I love Agatha Christie’s whole oeuvre but I find I cannot love the books without Poirot as much as the ones that he is in.)
Fortunately for you, After The Funeral is available for free viewing in its entirety here. Apologies to those of you who may be geoblocked – I’ve heard of a couple of relatively easy tricks to get around that so try searching for solutions and I think you’ll be in luck.
This is your spoiler warning, and perhaps more than ever I encourage you to watch the movie first. Agatha Christie’s whodunits are simply the best. Watch the movie, or better yet read the book. You don’t want to waste a single opportunity to experience one of her mysteries. And the scenes relevant to our discussion here make up a decent part of the film – perhaps even as much as 1/3.
Of course, like any mystery, After The Funeral is full of red herrings. No one has a proper alibi for the day of Cora’s murder and they’re all hiding something. The will is revealed to be a fake, Miss Gilchrest is poisoned, and Helen is hit over the head before the truth eventually comes out at the end: George is actually the son of Richard, a secret that Richard and Helen had kept from him until Richard was dying. Furious with Richard, George faked the will and disinherited himself. Michael is having an affair, and Rosamund is pregnant. She was going to have an abortion but discovers she wants the child. After Cora’s nefarious remark, George, driven by Susannah, headed down to see Cora to ask her about it, but ended up stopping at a hotel on the way for sexy times.
And it turns out that Richard was not murdered after all. Miss Gilchrest, the disgruntled servant, masqueraded as Cora at the funeral, planting the idea so that when she murdered Cora the next day the family would fall under suspicion and the two events would be linked. She was motivated primarily by money. Although she was not the inheritor of Cora’s estate, she had disguised an expensive painting as one of Cora’s worthless attempts at art – it was given to her without a thought, as she had intended. She poisoned herself as a ruse, and hit Helen over the head because Helen was beginning to suspect that something had been off about Cora on the day of the funeral.
It’s a bit of a stretch in some ways, but it’s all done rather convincingly and it comes as the most incredible surprise the first time around. From my sketched description it’s impossible to appreciate the twists and omg-ness (that’s in the dictionary, right?) of it all.
The relationship of interest to us is George and Susannah, of course. It’s clear from early on that they share a secret of some kind – Susannah avoids him, he dogs her, antagonism in the air – but the incest took many by surprise, I’m sure. Incest rarely takes me by surprise, because this is always me:And sometimes this is me:
The reason why I say that even though it’s cousincest it’s still of interest to us is because of the way it’s treated – as extremely shameful. Not just as something they choose to keep a secret, but as something they are ashamed of themselves, especially Susannah. That last part is really the key, at least for me. Not that I don’t enjoy canon incest storylines even when there’s no shame involved, but it’s like I always say: the shipping is about the couple overcoming obstacles. If there aren’t any obstacles then the shipping isn’t any good. And the best kinds of obstacles are the internal ones. My interest isn’t (exclusively) in forbidden love, it’s in the fact that these two people themselves believe that they shouldn’t be together but just can’t resist it. (I guess I just don’t enjoy it as much if at least one party is not trying to resist it. That’s true for me for almost any ship, incest or otherwise.)
Moving on: finding out at the end that George and Susannah had sex towards the beginning of the movie changes the way we view their scenes. I am going to treat their scenes as someone who already knows all there is to know and not describe them through the lens of someone watching the film for the first time. I think, in this case, that’s the best way.
(In some of the posts I have done – particularly the Arrow episode recaps and anything written on movies before that point – I have described the whole but focused on the relevant scenes. More recently I have gotten into the preferred habit of writing only about the relevant scenes. For Shame that worked pretty well since most of the scenes were relevant, but I’m afraid it might be a little bit more bewildering here for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie.)
We open on the funeral for Richard Abernethie. The family is scattered in the church, each person with a pew to themselves. Susannah reveals a lot about herself in her 5 second close up – she nods at what the minister is saying – she is not particularly emotional but is appropriately respectful.
George is the only member of the family who seems truly moved by the death – tears are spilling out of his eyes, but silently. We can also discern a lot about his character here – he feels a lot but keeps it all inside.
This scene is a prologue of sorts. The true action of the film begins with Mr. Entwhistle describing the case to Poirot. He says that the Abernethies are a rather “disconnected bunch, not close”, and then proceeds to describe to family tree while we see his flashbacks to the day of the funeral after the family leaves the church and goes to Enderby for the reading of the will.
George is “a bit wild, but likeable enough”. We see him angrily dodging his mother’s attempts to talk with him. As we’ll learn, he’s very angry with her about keeping his true paternity from him and mostly, it would seem, for cheating on his father.
Back at the estate, Rosamund points out that there is little point in everyone having come, since they all know that George is expected to receive the vast majority of what Richard has left behind. George is staring distractedly at a picture of Richard. He snaps out of it and then says that he may throw out a little “Maundy money, if you all promise to be good”. Such words would seem patronizing, but we know that George faked a will that disinherited himself and evenly distributed the money amongst the others, so he has been more than generous in action. Even though the topic of money is a sensitive one, that he made a joke at all, and such a joke, shows how slick and charming he is. And a skilled deflector as well.
Susannah is speaking with Maude, who asks her, “Helen says you’re working for the church mission association?” Susannah confirms this. Helen was living with Richard and caring for him while he was dying, and Richard had most of the family down to Enderby to visit during that time, so this might be why Helen is so informed, but perhaps Susannah has always been closer to the Leo Abernethies (which is to say, Helen and George).
Susannah is looking at a book. We can’t hear what they’re saying but they do seem to be making rather more than small talk – perhaps discussing the book in depth. Not a big deal, but you know how it is with an OTP – you freak out when they’re even in the same room. And it does seem like they quickly found each other in the gathering. Perhaps they had always shown a preference for each other’s company (it’s very unclear how often the family got together like this, whether it was often enough for George and Susannah have developed that kind of habit), or perhaps they just fell in together. (I always imagine that she was flipping through the books and George saw her and walked over to her.)
But to a careful observer it’s clear right away that there’s something different about this conversation as opposed to the others – both in their body language, and also in the fact that we can’t hear what they’re saying, which means the conversation isn’t about revealing information (the way the ones between Susannah and Maude, and Rosamund and George were).
These few moments that take place on the day of the funeral are of particular interest because they are the only interactions we see between George and Susannah before they have sex. Their relationship continues to progress after they have sex, of course, but the build-up is always of interest me and we really see very little of that, so each moment is precious.
“Cora” interrupts their conversation, and Susannah scuffles away into the next room to get a drink from Lanscombe, the butler, who was walking out. Perhaps she realized the conversation with George was becoming rather more like a flirtation than innocent small talk between two cousins.
She falls in with Rosamund and Michael. Rosamund is picking on Cora’s style, and Susannah reprimands her to not be so “catty”. (This is typical of Susannah’s behavior towards her sister and towards George.)
Susannah then tells Michael Cora’s story of running off with her penniless Italian painter (Giovanni Gallaccio). “It’s rather romantic,” she adds at the end, smiling like one would at a cute baby. There are two things I like about this: 1) the fact that Susannah is such a caring person – she values Cora as a person and as a relative even though she doesn’t know her, and 2) the fact that Susannah has romanticized an elopement like that, since that’s probably what it would come down to for her and George. It’s not a perfectly parallel situation but there’s definitely a comparison to be made. I wonder if it was intentional. Probably not, although it’s something that struck me almost right away, not upon the 5th or 6th viewing.
Mr. Entwhistle heads out to his car to retrieve his briefcase; George is standing beside the car looking shifty (we find out later that this is the exact moment when he has switched his faked will with the real one). Mr. Entwhistle returns to the house just as Susannah comes barreling out. George pulls out a flask as Susannah lands in front of him, her arms crossed. “Have you come to pray for my salvation?” he asks, taking a drink.
We have almost no context for the history of their relationship. The closeness of adult cousins varies incredibly widely. But I feel like there’s a familiarity to George’s question. Not only is he well versed in Susannah’s judgmental/critical behavior (he responds to it much in the same way as her own sister does), but his tone is derogatory, not like the polite conversation one makes with a semi-distant relative.
Likewise, Susannah has a stern expression on her face, disapproving – familiar. More like a sister than a cousin. I’m not saying that they’re more like siblings than cousins, only that George and Susannah, at the very least, appear to be relatively close for adult cousins. There is no given explanation for why she has come outside. George hasn’t even pulled out his flask before she is already out there so it can’t be that out the window she saw him drinking.
She walks straight towards George – there’s no question that she has come out to be with or speak to him, as opposed to merely going outside to get some fresh air. I can come up with only two possible explanations for this exchange between them as it was: 1) Susannah is well aware of George’s gambling and drinking habits and has been waiting for an opportunity to speak to him about it while they were alone, 2) George told her something during their earlier conversation that she disapproved of, and she is now coming to chastise him about it or finish chastising him about it, not having had the opportunity earlier when they were interrupted by Cora.
Either way, what is clear that is that she feels it’s her place to be critical of him, which implies a sort of intimacy that already exists between them. Susannah, in general, is quite polite and kind. In an later seen we see her being quite considerate of her uncle Timothy even though he’s a well known asshole. Her being inconsiderate with Rosamund is understandable, but it’s strange behavior with George – unless we assume that they have a sort of understanding that they’re free to say what they like to one another. It’s implicitly and mutually understood that they may treat each other like siblings rather than with the polite formality of extended family.
We don’t know when Rosamund and Susannah’s parents died. Perhaps Helen sort of took them under her wing, which would explain the familiarity. [Or perhaps Leo (George’s father) and Geraldine (Susannah’s mother) were closer than the other siblings.] We do see a semi-intimate rapport between George and Rosamund, though not to the same degree.
Entwhistle next describes to Poirot the reading of the will. As I mentioned in the summary, the forged will made by George sets out for the property to be sold and then divided evenly amongst Helen, Rosamund, Susannah, Cora, and Timothy. (Perhaps George was working off a discarded earlier will, but he also wrote for annuities to be left to the servants and left something to Entwhistle. Of course details like that are necessary for a good forgery – but all the same it was incredible thoughtful fake will, very considerate of others.) I always thought it was very generous of George to leave so much money to Cora and Timothy even though they had fallen out with Richard, and he doesn’t know Cora at all, and Timothy is a very unpleasant man. I think George’s faked will shows that he values family very highly.
Helen is aghast that George has been disinherited, and we also get a reaction shot from Susannah as she looks at George in displeased confusion. George slips out and Susannah follows, but we never see what happens between them. (It’s my assumption that she never finds him or he sends her away. Whatever happened I’m fairly sure they didn’t have a meaty conversation.)
Later on when Susannah believes that George is acting out because he upset about not getting any money she is tough on him, but this scene shows that her first reaction was to be deeply sympathetic and even a little outraged on his behalf.
Entwhistle tells Poirot that he knew that Richard had intended George to be the sole heir, and that was what had been in every version of the will. Nowadays most wills have the wealth equitably distributed amongst the children/heirs, but in Richard Abernethie’s situation it made sense to leave most of it to one person because of how expensive it is to maintain Enderby. (And sometimes it also involves bequeathing a title, like on Downton Abbey, which usually accompanies the house and all three things are kept together in a bundle.)
The family gathers again in one of the main rooms. It’s not really clear how much later it is, but I’d say at least 30 minutes has passed since the left the reading of the will. George is draped lazily in one of the chairs. I don’t know if that was the director or Michael Fassbender’s decision but it’s the perfect example of how much is revealed through George’s body language. It shows how comfortable he feels at Enderby, and a sort of entitlement in general, and, more than anything, a lack of f—ks to give, so to speak. Or maybe he’s just trying too hard to look nonchalant. He’s putting on act, just like Miss Gilchrest, who takes this opportunity to plant the seed of suspicion about Richard being murdered. Everyone is gaping at her – only George seems to be quietly considering it.
That’s our last scene of the funeral.
Entwhistle tells Poirot that Cora was murdered the day before (which was the day after the funeral), and this is the point at which the story catches up to the present.
After this scene between Entwhistle and Poirot we cut to some sort of night club – more of a lounge, really. It’s a bar, but more than a bar, you know? Live jazzy music, classy lamps. George is getting drunk.
We cut to Susannah, who is speaking in some sort of forum about the work she is doing in Africa and asking for donations. She is very passionate and well-informed, but the turnout is low, which she says is “dispiriting”. Helen arrives, and pulls her aside to inform her about Cora’s murder.
Susannah is horrified. Part of her must realize that there might be a connection to what Cora said during the funeral about Richard having been murdered (which is horrifying because it means there might be a serial murderer in the family), but as we’ll learn later, on the day Cora was murdered George and Susannah had been driving down to see her but didn’t make it because the raw sexual tension was just too much. (Rawr!) Susannah feels responsible for Cora’s death because she believes that if she and George had actually gone to Cora’s cottage, then Cora would not have been murdered. Which is possibly true if it had been a robbery, but in reality it would not have made a difference.
The timeline is a little wonky here and the dialogue doesn’t help. Helen tells Susannah that Cora was murdered “the day after the funeral”. But according to the way these scenes are intercut with Poirot and Entwhistle’s investigation, that would have been yesterday for them, which would be the much more natural term to use. And then George appears to wake up in the park the next morning, but a day has not passed, unless that scene at the bar/club/lounge/pub took place on the day Cora was murdered. Which is possible, but very hard to tell from the sequence of scenes. No, it doesn’t really matter. But if George was getting drunk off his a** the day Cora was murdered then that also means it was the same day as he and Susannah stopped off at that hotel and danced the horizontal tango. So could the drinking also be related to Susannah? Unlike any of the others, George is dealing with two life-shattering changes: 1) he learned that his uncle was his biological father, that his mother cheated on his father, and now his biological father is dead, and 2) he’s falling in love with his cousin. It’s hard to tell which one is affecting him when.
Poirot and Entwhistle catch up with Helen and Susannah at the same venue where Susannah was speaking, but she is wearing different clothes so it appears to be the next day. (It’s now three days after the funeral, I believe, but possibly four days.) Helen must have come along to help – they’re sorting clothes.
Susannah is surprised to hear that Cora has left her everything. (Since this also includes her share of Richard’s estate, it’s a considerable sum.) “Everything helps,” she says with a happy shrug, which implies she intends to donate most of it.
Helen explains that she is in town (London, I assume) to see Rosamund and Michael’s play, and she is staying with Susannah. Confirmation that Susannah and Helen, at the very least, are close. We know it’s not a matter of money – Helen has more than enough to afford a hotel. As for Rosamund and Michael, perhaps seeing the play is expected of all in the family able to attend – George goes as well (though perhaps only because Susannah is going to be there), but it might also be considered confirmation that these two branches of the Abernethie family are not quite as disconnected as Entwhistle said they were at the beginning.
(Something I imitate all the time. I wish I knew someone named Susannah.) He’s either expecting a warm reception or hoping to charm himself into one. One assumes they haven’t seen each other since they parted after their afternoon delight. I think it’s pretty clear he wants more of it.
He opens the door, and as you can imagine, is surprised to see not only the family solicitor and a strange little Belgian man, but also his mother. (Just a note: Hercule Poirot is quite famous by name diegetically speaking.)
This part cracks me up, so I did up two gifs to help demonstrate George’s inner monologue: Susannah is staring in muted horror at George while his mother demands where he has been. Apparently he has dropped off the map completely, though we knew already that he was avoiding his mother. He’s holding a newspaper – Cora’s murder is front page news.
“Poor old Aunt Cora,” George says. “I got the feelings she was just about to kick over the traces.”
I had no idea what that expression meant so I had to look it up. It means to rebel against authority/to do what you want without regard for orders/to be defiant, and it’s literal meaning is linked to domesticated animals freeing themselves from their restraints.
It’s obvious from his tone that George admired this quality in Cora, which will become even more evident.
George turns and looks at her, his face hard to read.
They were so lucky to get Michael Fassbender for this role because he does wonders. He adds so much dimensionality to George. And I honestly think he looks better in this movie than anything else I’ve ever seen him in. Part of it is probably the 50’s style – it really works for him. (50’s men’s fashion was so much better, don’t you think? The patterns, the hats. The high-fastening pants. OK, not so much the last one. Isn’t it always horrifying when a man in a movie that takes place in the 50’s takes off his jacket and you can see how high his pants are? Yeesh. But for George it’s offset by suspenders. I kind of have a thing for suspenders.)
Even though I had already seen Michael Fassbender in Band of Brothers and 300 when I saw After The Funeral for the first time, I had not taken note of him much. (I knew which soldier Christiansen was in B.O.B. but that was it.)
But I became infatuated after seeing him as George. He wasn’t unknown, especially in Britain, when he was cast in After The Funeral. He had been on a TV show called Hex (which Joseph Morgan was also on), which I attempted to watch, but I did not get very far. I forget the plot exactly – Michael Fassbender played some kind of fallen angel. I flippin’ love angels so I was excited but I found the show…I don’t even know how to describe it…spiritually (but also physically) nauseating. I don’t mean on an intellectual, ideological level – it was genuinely something that I felt. It was just wrong. So I quit that show and never looked back. Michael Fassbender also wore some guyliner that did NOT work for him and dressed in all black if I remember correctly, so I didn’t feel like I was missing out.
(I actually mentioned this a bit when I was talking about Joseph Morgan being cast on The Vampire Diaries in this entry.)
It was fun watching him become more famous, especially after X Men: First Class came out and suddenly all the girls wanted a piece of him. I try not to brag at all, especially when it makes me look like an idiot, but you’ll have to allow me to just get this out there once: I feel pretty proud of myself for being highly invested in Michael Fassbender, Tom Hardy, and Henry Cavill before hardly anybody (relatively) knew who they were. Like, I wasn’t the doctor who delivered them from their mothers’ vaginas and was literally the first person to see them ever and said, “I like this one”, but compared to their fame now I was a fan fairly early on. OK, I’m done with that, I swear.
Even though it only had about 13 episodes and was cancelled very suddenly, I encourage you all to watch it anyway. It was funny and cute and sweet and perfectly perfect. It’s about a goofy big brother who moves in with his neurotic sister to help her take care of her daughter. Kate Fox has to be one of my favorite female characters ever. The actress who played her daughter – Maggie Elizabeth Jones – has to be one of the cutest little girls that ever lived. Lucy Punch played Kate’s best friend and is also one of the most delightful characters to have ever existed. I’m clearly still bitter about the cancellation. Why do people watch sh!t and then good stuff like Ben and Kate gets cancelled?!!!)
I love Lucy Punch, she’s one of my favorite actresses, probably, but I’m not sure she was right for Susannah. I hate seeing any actor typecast, and just because she doesn’t usually play a role like Susannah doesn’t mean she can’t, but in this case I don’t think she was a good match for the part. She acts the hell out of the part, I don’t mean at all that she did a bad job, I just don’t think she was quite right. Of course, having seen this movie as many times as I have, it’s very hard for me to imagine anyone else in the role, and I feel a sentimental attachment if nothing else to Lucy Punch as Susannah.
Mostly it’s Michael Fassbender’s eyes (and face…and hat!). I think he’s a little bewildered by her treating him as if nothing has changed. And he’s here to speak to her about what happened between them (I don’t think he’s there to sort clothes), but he can’t because everyone and their mother is also here.
George is asked about his alibi for the day of Cora’s murder. He says he was at the races. (I love when gambling used to all be on horse racing!) “Had two winners as a matter of fact,” he adds, winking at Susannah. (*ecstatic keymashing*)
I’M SORRY I CAN’T I JUST LOVE IT SO MUCH.
George is noticeably surprised and distressed – there’s two separate reaction shots from him showing his negative response to this news.
Susannah does not come across as totally forthright, and I think she’s as nervous about revealing this information to George as she is about lying to the police.
And he just looks so sad!!!! It hurts my heart.
Susannah says that she is going to Africa as soon as she can get a passage. Someone is in a hurry to get away from their sexy cousin! And the funniest part is that the mission is in Bechuanaland. So I like to call it Bechuana-bang-your-cousin-land.
Helen seems rather unsure about the news as well. Perhaps she’ll miss Susannah herself, or perhaps she knows George will miss her, or perhaps she even suspects what is really going on.
Poirot begins to leave, then stops and turns back to ask George another question. George is staring down despondently and introspectively – he is literally (yes, literally) heartbroken right now. His Susannah is leaving him. He is totally turned inward, and isn’t even aware of what’s going on until Poirot interrupts his thoughts. He raises his head quickly, showing that he has been startled.Poirot wants to know what his winning horses were. George barely misses a beat, but Poirot always knows a lie when he hears one.
Our next relevant scene is Michael and Rosamund’s play. They had already told everyone that it was crap, and from the brief snippet we see they were quite correct. (They both fall under suspicion for the murder not only because they lied about their whereabouts on the day Cora was murdered but also because they are desperate for money to produce their own play.) George claps politely while yawning, I wonder if he even stayed awake for the whole thing. Susannah claps slightly more enthusiastically but only Helen has the energy to pretend she actually liked it.
Sweet Helen tries to tell them both that they were very good, and Susannah begins to echo her sentiments but Michael shuts them down and tells them that there is no need to be polite. George apparently saw enough to know it was terrible and says so, and Rosamund agrees freely.
They all sit down on the set, and George pulls out his flask asking if anyone wants a drink. You would think he would cool it on the sauce after waking up on a public bench but apparently not. He picks up a prop crocodile and just holds it for whatever reason, which is hilarious.
Susannah brings up Aunt Cora and says something generic about it being sad. Rosamund says that she had been thinking during the funeral that if one looked like Cora one had might as well be dead, and then she was dead, and then bursts out laughing.
In another world I’d ship him and Rosamund, but even with this delightful wicked dynamic they’ve got going, I still prefer George/Susannah and Michael/Rosamund. (And I actually love Michael and Rosamund. I won’t go into any detail, but I will say that they’re just another excellent part that makes After The Funeral so great as a whole.)
“That is a wicked thing to say,” Susanna reproves, and I quite agree. I understand that they’re not sad – they barely knew her, they don’t even know anyone who will miss her – but what a horrible thing to say!
“Oh don’t be so po-faced,” Rosamund snaps. This is another thing I looked up, though the meaning is rather clear from the context. It means: having an assumed solemn, serious, or earnest expression or manner; piously or hypocritically solemn.
Rosamund works out that they’re all under suspicion for both Richard and Cora’s deaths, and the scene closes on them all looking guilty and thoughtful.
So I guess he cut out and went to drink, and Susannah came to find him after finishing dinner. I like that she’s looking out for him. Perhaps she even knew where to find him because they had been there together before, or because it’s close to where he lives.
“I am sorry uncle Richard cut you out of the will,” she says, leaning forward. “It was a cruel thing to do. But you can’t let it send you off the rails. And there’s no reason to be so beastly to your mother.”
He takes another shot.
Am I the only one who thinks he looks like Don Draper? (Especially in this scene.) I would not have compared Michael Fassbender and Jon Hamm previously, but while working on the edits for this post I kept being reminded of Don Draper. Perhaps it’s because they both have the same hair cut.
“In the end what does the money matter?”’ Susannah continues. “You’d only lose it on horses or spend it on drink,” she censures, rather disgusted.
“Well you’re out of it now, aren’t you,” George replies. “Off to Africa with the missionaries.”
He reaches out for the bottle, and Susannah pulls it away from him – “ No, George!” – but he doesn’t let go and ends up falling onto the floor.
It’s too bad he was so drunk when he decided to have this conversation because it would have been very interesting if it had gone anywhere. We don’t see Susannah react to what he said – she’s too preoccupied with his drinking. I give her props for trying to intervene for his well-being, but overall she shows a lot of denseness during this scene. He’s upset about her leaving for Africa – she ignores that part, most likely she doesn’t even understand how upset he really is. He says he has a reason for being angry with his mother, Susannah doesn’t even ask what it is. She thinks he’s upset about the money, she attacks his habits. She never gets him to speak. She doesn’t listen.
Everyone in the club is laughing at him for falling.
The scene ends, we don’t know what else happens.
Susannah heads down to Cora’s cottage in Lychett St. Mary to go through her things and get it all ready to be sold. She has been there for some amount of time when we cut to George standing outside, staring at the building.
To be quite honest I’m not sure what he’s doing or thinking. He’s there to see Susannah, there’s no question about that. But there were ways of making it clear that it was her he was thinking about – he could have been watching her through the window, or looking at her car – something specific like that. As it is I feel the implication is that his thoughts are on Cora instead. He’s never shown to feel guilty about not having been there to save Cora the way Susannah is. So that leaves us with his curiosity about what “Cora” had said on the day of the funeral. So perhaps he is pondering if Richard was murdered and who had done it. But George is the one holding all of the knowledge – he knows the will is a fake and that the real will leaves everything to him. So he knows that he is the only one that would be motivated by money, and he’s also the only one motivated by anything else – the paternity drama. But he knows he didn’t do it. So I’m back to not really knowing what on his mind at this particular moment. So I’m going to just return to the idea that it’s Susannah, even though I don’t think that that was demonstrated in a satisfying manner. (From a movie-making point of view there’s a likelihood this is supposed to make him look possibly guilty to the viewer, but he still needs a reason for doing it.)
Entwhistle comes up behind him, and George explains that he came to see if he could lend Susannah a hand. (In bed.)
We don’t get to see Susannah’s reaction to George arriving. I wonder, perhaps, if that scene was cut for time. She didn’t expect him – we know that much.
George’s character finally gets a little bit more expansion. His behavior and preoccupations have been rather repetitious so far: being “beastly” to his mother, dogging Susannah, and drinking (which is to say, being generally upset about “the paternity drama” as I’ll continue to call it). He expresses actual interest in other things in this scene – looking around Cora’s cottage, even asking questions!
If you’ll recall, Giovanni Gallaccio was a painter, and Cora took up painting as well (though there’s a running joke that she was just not very good at it). There’s a painting up on the wall of a naked woman (done by Giovanni Gallaccio).
It catches George’s eye right away and he heads towards it.
Susannah is frowning at it with undisguised distaste.
She rolls her eyes and walks away.
Just then Mr. Gallaccio arrives. Unfortunately the party has grown even larger. But it doesn’t really matter – because George and Susannah’s secret has to remain at least semi-mysterious we’ll never get to see an actual conversation between them much less anything more than that.
George pulls on a flask in the background while Giovanni explains why he is there and examines a piece of art that Cora has purchased. Susannah expresses some eagerness that the painting in question should be worth something, and some disappointment when Mr. Gallaccio tells her that Cora was mistaken about its value. (Of course Miss Gilchrest has switched out the real painting at this point.)
Just like Rosamund he delights in Susannah’s (alleged) hypocrisy. I’m sure he believes he has a better chance with her if she stops believing she’s so much better than him. “I thought you had no interest in worldly possessions.”
I’ve no doubt that Susannah intends to donate a considerable amount of money to her cause, but she has grown up in luxury and will probably want to continue living in the style to which she has grown accustomed. Since Cora was the whimsical youngest sister who ran off with a penniless painter we can infer that the other sister, Geraldine, married smartly to a man of means. I’m sure they were not as rich as Richard, but they had to have been well-off. When Susannah arrives, she hands her suitcase to Miss Gilchrest as if Miss Gilchrest were a domestic. She’s obviously used to having servants, and considers herself, as the rest of the family considers themselves, to be of a higher class than Miss Gilchrest.
“She seemed to me a woman who didn’t care two pence about convention or doing the right thing,”George remarks.
Unlike earlier, for example when George winked at her, Susannah does not grow irritated here, but instead appears frightened and nervous. It seems to me she almost agrees with him but doesn’t want to own up to the fact, even to herself. She knows she’s a coward.
George is almost always the one with the confidence in their interactions, but there’s a particularly strong disparity here. He absolutely believes that he is in the right, even though Susannah’s reaction (to resist the incestuous relationship) is what one would expect from most people. I have to assume that his confidence comes from the strength of his feelings for her and his belief that they are returned in kind. And Susannah, in turn, is shaken by his accusation (of weakness/cowardice/conformity) because she knows how strongly she feels for him, and that part of the reason she resists is because she is afraid of what other people will think.
This also fortifies the comparison I made earlier between her and Cora when Susannah said to Michael that it was romantic the way Cora had eloped with her inappropriate lover. Here we have George comparing the two love affairs himself.
We also have a confirmation that George wants what is between them to be more than one sweaty afternoon in a hotel. Between his words and his implication that they apply to Susannah we can infer he’s interested in pursuing something that will last into the future. He’s concerned with a steady defiance of societal convention.
After Susannah shakily sets down her teacup she returns George’s look with almost an apology in her eyes. It’s definitely a change from the glare we’ve typically seen. Part of that is probably because George is obviously talking about more than just sex here.
The party begins to break up. Entwhistle is worried about finding his way back to the hotel and Susannah begins to describe some landmarks to help him when she realizes mid-sentence that according to the lies that she has told she should have no idea where the hotel is.
Entwhistle duly reports this back to Poirot. He might not have even noticed something was up if she hadn’t shut up in the middle of her sentence!
Entwhistle and Gallaccio leave, and Miss Gilchrest sees them out.
You can see Susannah start to get nervous as the others leave the room, which is hilarious.And George almost seems a little nervous himself. He taps the arm of his chair with his fist (which is ridiculously adorable) while he waits for the others to clear the room. He knows this is his opportunity.George rises from his chair, crosses the room and sits next to Susannah on the love seat. Susannah starts breathing heavily in nervousness and staring at him with wide eyes like a mouse in the cat’s claws.
She’s obviously afraid to be alone with him. Afraid to be alone with him because she’s afraid she’ll give in to him. Give in to herself.
SHE WANTS IT.
She does her whole song and dance about wedding cake that was in the post and who it might be from. She’s probably aware of the fact that Susannah and George couldn’t care less but she needs them to see the act.
Susannah asks Miss Gilchrest if she knows Gallaccio well. George reacts to the question with a sort of irritated suspicion. (He gets a long reaction shot.) I’m not totally sure why. Assuming he’s not jealous of Susannah’s interest in Mr. Gallaccio, my best guess is that he’s annoyed that Susannah is engaging Miss Gilchrest in conversation, trying, perhaps, to keep Miss Gilchrest in the room so that she won’t be alone with George again.
Susannah – you have to give her credit – seems genuinely interested in Cora and Gallaccio’s relationship and in Cora in general. That’s probably my favorite thing about her character – even if she has to fake it she always displays a respectful interest in everyone. Even the dead. You might think of it as a strict adherence to what is considered proper social behavior, but I think it’s more than that. I think it’s kindness. I think she values each human life – from the dead aunt she barely knew to the illiterate children in Betuanabangyourcousinland.
George lays down on the love seat. Susannah’s place is now his place the way way he reclines in entitlement at Enderby.
Right. “On the couch”.
Having him stay the night is just too much of a temptation. And the last thing she wants is for them to have a moment alone, even if that only leads to a conversation. She really can’t handle anything.
He rises angrily, makes a quick farewell smile at Miss Gilchrest, and then heads out the door. He walks out so slowly and sadly! I’m surprised she didn’t have to physically push him – that’s how slowly he’s walking. It’s like he’s a child being sent to bed or a dog being put outside for the night when all he wants to do is stay inside with his family. You know, it’s really appropriate that George had that scene with the dog in the park because he’s part dog.
He stands just outside and looks back at Susannah with actual puppy dog eyes (and just a hint of amusement, because he knows what she wants, even if she’s not giving in, and he knows why she has to send him away).
It’s as if she’s pretending there’s nothing to hide, and doing a terrible job of it.
Whatever the original plans for Day 2 at Cora’s had been, they’re off the table after Miss Gilchrest’s poisoning.
“I don’t know. Anywhere. Africa!”
Of course right now it’s all of the murder that she’s trying to run away from.
He grabs her arm to stop her and then swings in front of her. “You can’t run away now! Don’t be cowardly.” Susannah is angry. “You are being beastly since you lost out on that money,” she snaps through clenched teeth.
Oh Susannah. No, honey. Don’t you get it? HE LOVES YOU.
“It’s not about the money,” he shouts.
Why doesn’t she get that? Jeez.
I’m sort of over the cliché of the good girl falling for the bad boy in general. I think both George and Susannah are more complicated than those stereotypes (and anyway, incest sort of cancels out the cliché), but we have one of the staples of that kind of formula of love story here: the inability of the good girl to believe that the bad boy isn’t just playing around with her.
It had always been my impression that Susannah thought George was mostly interested in sex, and perhaps even if he was interested in more, might have too much trouble reforming from his drinking and gambling ways. But the more I think about this scene, about the exchange right here when she says, “Isn’t that all you really care about?”, I wonder if maybe she also thinks he’s trying too mooch off her share of the inheritance. It’s also possible that she’s finding all of his drinking and anger tiresome, and thinks that if he cared about her more than the money then he would just get over it. I really enjoy these complexities to their relationship. (But, of course, the primary reason why Susannah resists George is because of the incest. )
She pulls away and begins walking again. He’s too surprised by what she has said to keep his grip on her but he quickly catches up. (Perhaps it never occurred to him that she might not believe his attentions were sincere. Or perhaps he’s just shocked that she’s saying such hurtful things. But she’s afraid and she’s lashing out.)
“Don’t go, Susannah,” he begs. He grabs her arm again to stop her and pulls her close. “We’re in too deep!” he declares forcefully.
Obviously this whole conversation is set up to make them look highly suspicious – unfortunately at the expense of logic. I find it hard to believe they would have actually had this conversation. “We’re in too deep” is an odd thing to say about a romantic relationship. I’d like to think that’s what he’s referring to but I don’t think that was the intention on the part of the teleplay-wright. The only thing they’ve done together that could get them into trouble is lie about their alibi, but that is easily fixed. They do have an alibi – each other – they’re just too embarrassed to share it. Which is why the line doesn’t make much sense.
Susannah is afraid, I assume, of being murdered. If she would have accepted Miss Gilchrest’s offer of cake then she would be in the hospital with arsenic poisoning as well, or dead. That part makes sense.
I assume the “what I’ve done” that George refers to is the faking of the will, though fessing up to that will hardly make him look guilty of the murder since he doesn’t really have a motive and he has an alibi for Cora’s murder once he decides to use it. He could mean the big fight he had with Richard which he thinks might have “killed” him.
This would only prompt Susannah to ask him more questions, but it does not seem that he came clean with her.
Which is why this whole part is sort of stupid. But the first part of this scene was good.
This is the point at which Poirot invites everyone to come stay at Enderby, ostensibly to choose keepsakes before everything is sold.
Rosamund and Michael want the malachite table, but Timothy vetoes – he wants it himself. He also wants the dessert service “for sentiment’s sake”.
George has a bit of fun (it amuses Helen as well) and says that the dessert service has already been marked down for him, which sends Timonthy into a sputtering rage.
“What do you want with a dessert service?” Timothy asks. “You’re not even married.”
“I thought no material gifts could replace your brother,” George says scathingly. George was the “favorite”, so apparently he and Richard were close even when George just thought they were nephew and uncle. I’m assuming George loved Richard a great deal, even though they had a falling out at the end.
This makes Timothy even angrier.
“Oh do be quiet Susannah.”
“But if Timothy really wants it,” Susannah says. It seems strange for her to be picking a fight with her sister under these circumstances so I think she really is standing up for Timothy even though he’s such an unpleasant man. She’s all about respect. It is interesting that she picks on Rosamund instead of George in this scene. But perhaps it was because she knew Geroge was kidding about the dessert service, whereas Rosamund really wanted to the table.
Maude reminds Rosamund not to upset Timothy because his heart is weak.
“Uncle Timothy will outlive us all,” George remarks. “He’s a creaking gate.”
“I don’t wonder Richard cut you out,” Timothy retorts.
“What do you mean?” George asks sharply. If he wasn’t so far into his drinking for the day he’d probably realize Timothy didn’t mean anything at all.
Rosamund starts again about the table. She wants it for the new play that she and Michael are putting on themselves with the inheritance money. The play they were in is already closed. (A fact which obscures the timeline even more.) George expresses sarcastic surprise, which causes Rosamund to slam her cup down angrily. (That’s the only time we see any negatively between Rosamund and George.) George continues to laugh about it. He’s a mean drunk.
Mr. Gallaccio flirts a bit with Maude, so Timothy fakes not feeling well and Maude wheels him out of the room. Michael expresses some sympathy, which I thought was cool. He felt bad for Maude, having to deal with Timothy and work so hard taking care of him.
This opens up something for George, who says: “Yes, it’s extraordinary, isn’t it, the way some women are loyal to buffoons of husbands, when other men, men who should inspire real loyalty, are made fools of.” This passive aggressive remark is intended for his mother. I think it’s really sweet how loyal he is to his father, Leo, and how highly he thinks of him.
Cora liked to paint landscapes, and Susannah really harps on the idea that she must have painted from postcards, while Miss Gilchrest, playing the part of the devoted servant, fervently denies it. Of course this gets hammered in because it’s a clue, but it’s a little clunkily done. I almost think it gets lampshaded because George says, drunkenly and hilariously: “Even if she did copy, it’s not a crime, is it? I mean…” Which is exactly what I had been thinking. Susannah treats copying from a postcard like it’s a shameful secret.
Whether there’s any significance to George being the one to point out Susannah’s obsession with the postcard question, I don’t know. I doubt it. But it could always be another example of Susannah having these strict ideas about what is proper behavior or the right way of doing things, and George drawing her attention to that.
Right before George’s comment, Poirot asks Susannah whether her recent trip to Cora’s cottage was the first time she had been to Lychett St. Mary, and she lies rather unconvincingly. It’s hard to tell whether she’s nervous about the lying or just gets shaky every time she’s reminded of her and George’s detour to the hotel.
We rejoin the party after dinner. Everyone is sitting around, talking. George and Michael are lying on the floor playing some sort of dice game. Susannah is seated behind them. Poirot says that Enderby has been bought by nuns, and George says, “Nuns are a good bet. They’ll look after the old place,” so at least he has some sentimentality about Enderby, since the will he faked detailed that the property was to be sold.
Michael remarks that he finds it hard to imagine anyone wanting to become a nun, and Rosamund goes off on a tangent about a stylish-looking nun in a play. George smiles at Michael in amusement. I assume he’s teasing Michael for having to be married to such a ridiculous (but also somehow wonderful, I think they all agree) woman. (It’s a sweet moment for Michael and Rosamund, too.)
This leads to a discussion about not looking properly at anyone’s faces, and George participates in the discussion, another example of him being at least partially capable of focusing on something other than his major concerns. Clearly I feel its necessary for some reason to prove that he’s well-rounded. (We do know he likes to read the newspaper!)This segues into a discussion about faces being asymmetrical. Susannah makes a lame joke about not recognizing yourself in the mirror and laughs at it much harder than someone should laugh at their own joke, and George smiles at her which gives me shippy feels. And then he laughs pretty hard. So he must be in love.
Later that evening the two sisters have a scene together.
“Susie, are you really going to Africa?” Rosamund asks wistfully. It’s actually quite sweet. The nicest thing either one of them has said to the other in the entire movie so far is when Susannah pretended poorly that she had enjoyed the play, but I think this shows that they’re actually somewhat close. Rosamund, at least, feels a need for her sister. The bit about the baby won’t come out for a little while yet, but looking back we can see that that’s what this is about.
“Yes, I think so.”
“I wish you weren’t. Not just now.”
Susannah laughs. “Why? You should come. It might do you some good to do something for someone other than yourself.”
Wow, Susannah. Sometimes it’s a miracle these people actually want you around.
“You’ve become so boringly priggish,” Rosamund retorts. “I’m beginning to wonder if you haven’t done something really bad and you’re being holier-than-thou to make up for it.”
It gives us quite a bit of insight into Susannah. The guilt she feels has sort of magnified her inclinations towards judgment and charity.
Rosamund begins fidgeting around and finds the real will where George has hidden it in a dollhouse. Because it doesn’t really matter how and when the real will turns up – Poirot, Entwhistle, and the police have already figured out the other is a fake – and because it has nothing to do with the murder I’ll let it go, but for me this is one of the hardest parts to believe – that George would hide the will there on the day of the funeral after swapping it out for the one he has faked, and that he would just leave it there. He’s had all of this time to get rid of it if he really wanted to. Unless subconsciously he doesn’t really want to. Which I can accept.
Entwhistle is embarrassed for not having realized it was a fake will, and Poirot reassures him that it is a very good fake. So A+ to George for his forgery skills. No wonder he didn’t have to worry about disinheriting himself – he has a future in the black market.
Everyone gathers for the reading of the real will. George walks out again, though it’s his mother that follows him this time. Rosamund and Timothy are quite vocally upset. We don’t get to see Susannah’s reaction.
He reclines on the stairs and looks ridiculously sexy. George and I have that not in common. Not so much the looking sexy part, but the always lying down if at all possible part.
This whole scene is very Hamlet-y.
Helen, upset, returns to her room, and realizes, as a result of what had been discussed earlier that evening, that what she had sensed had been different on the day of the funeral was Cora, who always used to tilt her head to the right (one of the many mannerisms that made it easy for Miss Gilchrest to imitate her), had been tilting her head to the left. She phones Entwhistle (there’s a hint of an unrealized mutual affection between the two of them, just another thing to enjoy) but Miss Gilchrest beats her unconscious before she gets a chance to say what she was going to say. I’m not sure that Miss Gilchrest knew what she was going to say but I guess she wasn’t willing to take any chances.
Paramedics arrive and George is beside himself as they’re taking her out on a stretcher. He spends the night in the hospital by her side and only comes back the next morning because he has been sent away.
While everyone is at breakfast George appears. Rosamund, who always puts things together rather quickly, has figured out that Helen was undoubtedly “coshed” and is expounding at length on her reasoning. Susannah asks George if Helen is OK, but Rosamund continues talking. George pours himself a drink (George, it’s breakfast!) and doesn’t answer her. Susannah sighs.” George!” she says again, a second later.
The subject of the will comes back in strength. Everyone is assuming, understandably, that whoever faked the will killed Richard, so George bangs on the counter and then confesses that it was him who faked the will. And, typical, storms out.
We flash back to the day of his quarrel with Richard, the day Richard told him the truth.
“It’s not true. She loved my father. She would never have done that,” he argues. Poor baby! (And he looks like a baby. Look at that face!) It gets pretty ugly after that. George says that he could see that Richard was sick but just couldn’t stop shouting at him, which is why he thinks he’s responsible for his death.
Poirot gathers everyone into a most spectacular room for the climax. (Doesn’t it just kill you that this was someone’s house!) He has just taken Rosamund and Michael aside and forced out the truth about her pregnancy. He allowed them to discuss that in privacy but he’s going to air everyone else’s dirty laundry in the open.
Susannah and George are seated next to each other. He almost looks like he’s sitting on the ottoman that goes with her chair so I think he was so eager to sit by her that he didn’t care if he had a proper seat or not.
The episode “The Unicorn and the Wasp” of Doctor Who, in which the Doctor and Donna Noble cross paths with Agatha Christie, parodies perfectly her style of big end reveals when they happen in a group setting like this. Poirot goes around the room making each person sound like the perpetrator and then clears them one by one, just for his own amusement.
After Timothy, Poirot targets Susannah. The police have already figured out that she stayed at the King’s Arms hotel in Lychett St. Mary on the day of Cora’s murder. Even in the 50’s you can’t hide something like that from the police. Knowing that law enforcement is there to question her certainly puts the pressure on for her to reveal the truth. George is sitting next to her, watching her with sympathy.
She begins crying, trying to maintain her dignity.
And then Susannah finally tells the truth. “The morning after the funeral, George rang to say he was going down to see Aunt Cora to ask about what she had said at the funeral. He doesn’t have a car, I offered to drive.”
It sounds like George called her and sort of wanted her to come but didn’t exactly say so, and she joined him eagerly. I really have to wonder whether they sort of started falling for each other at the funeral, and then in the car having all of that time alone together and it just being the right time resulted in them stopping off at the hotel, or whether there had always sort of been something between them that just never quite spilled over into any sort of consummation, and then getting together for the funeral just reminded them of how much they liked each other.
“And did you see her?” Poirot asks.
There have been several reaction shorts of George just staring at the ground or into the distance. He does seem a little bit embarrassed now that he has to face it in a room full of his family (though not his mother, thankfully).
You should see the smile on my face. I love this part. Well, I don’t love this part – too much secondhand embarrassment – but I love thinking about them driving to Cora’s and just not making it. What I wouldn’t give to be a fly buzzing around in that car. And I love watching Susannah crying and saying, “We went to the hotel.” Yesssssssssssss. She covers her mouth in embarrassment.
Now I’m crying! (Not really though. Like that kind of fake OTP-crying.)
“But I can’t forgive myself,” Susannah cries. “If we’d gone to the cottage we might have saved Aunt Cora’s life. And we’re cousins!” She says this with a touch of disgust, but it’s more like she can’t believe she’s done it.
So, see what I mean about shame? Not only were they keeping it a secret, but Susannah clearly feels deeply shameful about it. She explicitly says that she thinks it’s wrong, and George implies as much when he talks about Cora not caring about doing what was right.
Rosamund is watching this like it’s her favorite soap and she can’t believe this shocking new twist. To her credit she looks surprised and concerned more than anything. I might have expected to see some triumph there after watching Susannah get knocked down a few pegs.
This is a huge revelation. I’ll go into it later. I’m fairly sure it takes George by surprise. I’m sure he was growing quite discouraged by this point, and beginning to believe that Susannah would never come around, and here she confesses that she loves him in front of everyone.
Poirot knew that Susannah was not guilty of killing Cora, but I don’t think he could have possibly known why she was at the King’s Arms. (We see him noticing various other clues, but nothing that relates to the nature of George and Susannah’s relationship.) He might have guessed about the true nature of Susannah and George’s relationship after he asked them about their whereabouts on the day after the funeral, but it would have been quite a stretch. So I guess I can’t really hold it against him for asking her to tell the truth in front of the entire room. It’s really their fault. They might have told Poirot or the police the truth at any time in private. It’s their family that they really want to keep it from, isn’t it?
And now the hard part is over. The whole family knows! There’s nothing to stop them, right?!!
Poirot pretends like George and Susannah are still suspects by saying something about no one seeing them leave the hotel, but I don’t think anyone’s buying it. Though George really isn’t helping, he looks as guilty as [insert person that is really guilty of something]:Poirot then describes what Miss Gilchrest had done and why in detail. Miss Gilchrest finally breaks down and confesses, which turns into an angry rant. She reveals that Cora used to babble on and on about her childhood at Enderby and her siblings. I thought it was kind of funny that the younger sister who romantically ran off with the penniless painter effectively cutting ties with her family ended up getting divorced and spent the last years of her life in a state of permanent nostalgia for what she left behind. She clearly valued family as well, in the end. She left everything to Susannah, whom she hadn’t seen in 20 years, if ever.
George is impressed with Poirot figuring everything out. He treats it all very intellectually. I’d have attacked that woman once I learned she was the one who had put my mother in the hospital.
The denouement has everyone departing from Enderby. The time frame is unclear. Helen is in this scene, but during the revelation scene she was still in the hospital and had not yet come around. So it’s probably the next day. If it really is the next day then undoubtedly Susannah and George had at least one exchange that we were not privy to. I can’t imagine them not talking after all that had happened. But I suppose it’s possible Susannah just locked herself in her room.
They continue speaking but it’s going on in the background and we can’t hear what they are saying. I think this might be an editing error because it really doesn’t make sense to drop out of an ongoing conversation at that point.
Some of the other characters come to the center again.
George looks after her, miserable. Michael Fassbender has a talent for misery. He just looks so miserably miserable during this whole scene.
“Don’t stay away too long,” Helen tells her. I think Helen ships it. She has to know that George and Susannah are good for each other. I won’t spend paragraphs going on and on about that, but I think it’s perfectly true. They balance each other out quite nicely. Compatible opposites, as I like to say. She in particular is bound to have a good influence on him once they get past the angst stage. Right now they’re just making each other miserable.
He stares after her, looking textbook sad.
I mean this scene is out of control. It’s just frame after frame after frame of George looking sad. He looks very much the part of the owner of the house now. I feel there’s a very subtle implication here that he will move into Enderby and make it his home as Richard and Helen wanted.
A remarkably open ending for Susannah and George.
Susannah is still planning to go to Bechuanabangyourcousinland, more importantly it’s obvious that she is continuing to resist George’s overtures, though she has given up pretending that she doesn’t want him back.
What comes across in this final scene more than anything is the fact that they both desperately love each other. George is behaving more maturely – he’s not going to show up in her cabin on the boat to Africa, naked in her bed – but it’s more obvious than ever that he’s in love with her and wants her. He’s respecting her decision to avoid what she feels for him, but he watches her leave with absolute misery. He’s one straw away from not letting her go.
As for Susannah, we might have interpreted that she only felt a certain lust for George that she alternately indulged and resisted with frustrated shame, but she tells us (and him) that she loves him. This isn’t just some embarrassing desire or guilty pleasure – she’s in love with him. And we can see that. Her steeled resistance now takes on a desperate air with this new knowledge. She has to dig her claws into the dirt to keep away from him. And her crying when she says goodbye to him, and especially when she gets into the car, is just the icing on the cake. This is as difficult for her as it is for him, even though she’s the agent of their separation.
So, no, it’s not exactly a happy ending, but they’re desperately in love with each other. So even though they’re technically parting, I don’t see it as permanent. I feel like all of the effort that was made in this final scene to show how hard it was for them to part ways is just evidence that they’ll find their way back to each other. Helen telling her not to stay away for long feels like a clue to me as well.
We can also presume that Rosamund will be having her baby and will want her sister around. Rosamund expressed this desire earlier, and even though things are improving with Michael, I feel like she’s still the type of person who will fear she doesn’t have the right kind of maternal instincts and will want someone she trusts around to help for the good of the child. Perhaps she’ll be able to convince Susannah to not even go. Or perhaps to come back after a few months.
I don’t know, perhaps the writer and/or director didn’t want to be to scandalous by endorsing cousincest with a “happy ending”. It doesn’t seem that scandalous to me. (I think I’ve already established that I don’t think cousincest is any big deal. If the situation ever came up where I had the opportunity to say that, then I would. To anyone.) If the story took place 100 years earlier then no one would bat an eyelash at two cousins getting married. (I’m not totally sure at what point exactly it fell out of favor.)
The writer and director clearly cared about George and Susannah’s relationship – they portrayed it like a love story, not like a dirty secret. The majority of the final scene is dedicated to it. Possibly even the final shot, depending upon what you think George is thinking about. If they wanted some mystery and some incest then it could have just been a one night stand of sorts, but George and Susannah are in love with each other. So I’m just going to assume that the open ending was a compromise, a concession.
Or maybe they just wanted the story to be extremely sympathetic. No matter how much they love each other, because it’s a love that is not socially acceptable it will be challenging.
Obviously I refuse to even entertain the idea that they won’t eventually end up together.
This was a love that grew quickly, n’est-ce pas? It has only been a couple of days. This final scene takes place no more than a week after the funeral. But I kind of love that. They’ve known each other their entire lives, and once they cross that line it almost becomes as if they’ve been in love that entire time. It’s like all of that intensity was there the whole time, but dammed up.
This movie can also be marketed as: George Abernethie and the Terrible, Horrible No Good, Very Bad Month. Bad things: 1) found out his mother cheated on his father, 2) found out his uncle was really his father, 3) his father-uncle died, 4) developed a problem with alcohol, 5) fell in love with his cousin, 6) his aunt was murdered, 7) was suspected of aforementioned murders, 8) someone attempted to murder his mother, 9) aforementioned cousin left him to be a missionary in Africa, 10) wasted time on a really crappy play. Good things: 1) inherited a fortune that he didn’t really want and already knew he was getting.
In fact George actually has two rough break ups at the end of this film: one with Susannah, and the other with his actual true love – his flask.
I know I’ve written a lot. Particularly for a canon relationship. Particularly for cousins. But George and Susannah is just one of my favorite things. I have always looked forward to writing this entry, to diving into their relationship and examining it in detail. I realize it’s not likely to inspire a shipping frenzy in anyone but me. I don’t even know if anyone will end up reading this whole thing. But I wanted to share their marvelousness and my love for them. I’d held them pretty close to my chest up until this point. Sometimes I’m miserly like that. But the time had come.
George and Susannah now have a fic! Be sure to check it out.