Michael Cox reviews a film that's 'gripping, moving and filled with convincing performances'.
A 14-year-old girl is found murdered in her bedroom: her throat slit, her head beaten. An incompetent investigation is launched, and the media of India is immediately ignited. Blame first falls on a missing servant, but when his body is discovered, attention turns to the parents—who supposedly slept in the next room, suspiciously unaware.
Guilty follows three attempts at solving the case, primarily focusing on the second investigation, conducted by the respected Ashwin Kumar (Irrfan Khan). Theories are tested, suspicions bounce and incompetent practices are discovered.
Anyone who has watched films that focus on injustice will recognise some of the tropes here, and the film does an excellent job in creating enough ambiguity with the facts to make one uncertain what is truth—frustratingly even at the film’s conclusion. But perhaps most interesting is how the film offers a glimpse into India’s legal life, not only its procedures and ranks in crime investigation but also in how divorce is handled, and even the questionable use of Narco tests (drug-induced interrogations by doctors).
However, at the film’s heart is the excellent Khan, whose investigator Kumar proves to be a fascinating character. Cheeky, insightful and happy to bend the rules to close a case, Kumar is a character audiences might find they side with, even when his investigation takes wrong turns.Gripping, moving and filled with convincing performances, Guilty is compelling viewing that sits comfortably with Serial and Making a Murderer in its depiction of justice gone wrong. It might not give tidy answers, but it asks pertinent questions.
Reviewed as part of this year's Glasgow International Film Festival.