The Origin of Evil or L’Origine du Mal, is a French thriller-drama film that comes with an exciting proposition and ends on an equally satisfying note. The plot here follows a woman named Stephane, who reaches out to the wealthy businessman Serge Dumontet after finding out that she is the man’s illegitimate daughter. The initial mystery, both for the viewers and also for the characters of the Dumontet family, is regarding Stephane’s intentions, but the film comes up with a number of twists along the way. The Origin of Evil is enjoyable both for its plot and the execution, which are often serious and caricature-ish at the same time, making the film a recommendable watch.
Plot Summary: What is film about?
The Origin of Evil begins with an introduction to Stephane, an ordinary woman who toils through a very usual job at a fish packing factory, understandably unhappy with the situation in her life. Her girlfriend is currently in prison, with no chance of getting free any time soon, and Stephane has to make the most of the timely visits that are permitted at the place. There is no family or friends for the protagonist either, as she stays by herself in a rented room, sharing the house with the elderly landlady. But there is one slight glimmer in Stephane’s otherwise dull life, for she has found a contact very crucial in her life, seemingly not too long ago. Stephane had always known that her mother had conceived her out of wedlock, and the relationship was just an extramarital affair. It is only recently that the woman has been finally able to trace down her biological father and even get hold of a phone number for his house.
A few times before she can finally bring herself to talk to the man over the phone, Stephane calls the number and immediately hangs up, unable to gather the courage to say a word. But when she finally manages to talk, though, the man on the other side of the phone very readily agrees to meet her, inviting her to the island of Porquerolles, in the Cote d’Azur region. Thus, Stephane and her biological father, Serge Dumontet, meet for the very first time in their lives. In this very first meeting, the daughter makes it clear that she is not angry at her father for having abandoned her and her now-deceased mother. Rather, it is only to find her family members that Stephane has come to the island, as she claims. Her situation slightly changes, though, when Stephane’s elderly landlady forces her out after the latter’s estranged daughter suddenly returns one day, rendering Stephane homeless.
However, once Serge takes the woman to his sprawling mansion on the island, his family members are not very supportive of this new guest. Serge’s wife, Louise, and his daughter with the woman, George, are convinced that Stephane has come only to claim her part in the businessman’s enormous wealth. They both, along with their trusted butler, Agnes, keep making efforts to stop Stephane from visiting. However, the woman’s newfound love for her biological father and Serge’s desire to keep in contact with her lead to Stephane finding a new home and family on this luxurious island.
Is Stephane really Serge’s daughter?
Stephane’s stepsister, George, is introduced as the one in control of the family business at the moment, even though Serge has not really retired from it. In fact, Serge claims that his daughter has returned from her life in Australia only to take over the business and oust him from it, stealing all his property and wealth in the process. The insinuation of stealth is made because Serge does not really want his money to be given to Louise, or at least to George, whom he hates with all his might. The reason for this hatred is not entirely clear yet, but it is evident that the feeling is mutual, for George does not hesitate to even get physically hurtful towards her father. The woman is also in the process of legally claiming her father as unfit to carry on the family business, which would ensure that George would have full control over all decisions. Therefore, her suspicion of Stephane is perhaps quite natural, as she does not want to share the wealth that is soon to be hers entirely.
The point that George picks, as part of her doubt against her supposed stepsister, is also a valid one, as she questions whether the woman posing to be Stephane is actually the real illegitimate daughter of Serge Dumontet. Stephane had not shown any ID or proof of her identity to any of her newfound family members, and when George even went through the woman’s personal belongings, she was unable to find any document. The audience is also given a hint of Stephane’s lying habits when we see her make up an absolute fib about her profession. When Serge presumes that she is the owner of the fish packing factory that she works at, for he cannot even imagine that his daughter is just a mere employee at such a place, Stephane does not correct his mistake. Instead, the woman almost instantly makes up a long story about how she started the business, having bought it over and turning losses into small profits.
Very soon, the protagonist solves the issue with her ID, for she did not really have one, and using some old sources, she gets one made in the name of Stephane Marson. However, the real truth is revealed in this process as well, and it is confirmed that the woman we have been seeing is actually not Stephane but a serial fraudster named Nathalie Cordier. Nathalie had been in prison several times, and it was during one such instance that she met her current girlfriend, whom she has been seen visiting in jail. It is this girlfriend who is the real Stephane Marson, who is currently behind bars for having supposedly killed her girlfriend, and she and Nathalie met and fell in love in prison. Nathalie heard Stephane’s life story from the latter, getting to know how she was the illegitimate daughter of the rich businessman, Serge Dumontet, and had then hatched this entire plan. In fact, the protagonist had been caught for identity theft multiple times in the past, and this explains how she steps into the role of playing Stephane so easily. Thus, the woman portraying herself as Stephane is really not the daughter of Serge, and Nathalie has the sole intention of getting a rich inheritance through this plan.
What does Nathalie find out about Serge?
When Nathalie, pretending to be Stephane, first arrives at the Dumontet house in Porquerolles, she and the audience are given the impression that the man is a victim of harassment at the hands of his own family members. The manner in which Louise speaks to the man and George goes on to even physically hurt him, even appointing Agnes to spy on him, makes it seem like the women are simply waiting for Serge to die so that they can get his wealth for themselves. Thus, the daughter’s plan to make her father legally proven incompetent to run the family business sounds all the more sinister. When Serge asks Nathalie to testify in court on his behalf and make it known that he is competent enough, the woman agrees to do it.
However, Serge’s character takes a complete turn midway through The Origin of Evil, when the man’s actual colors start to become apparent. The first alarming comment that the old man passes is with regards to Agnes, stating that Jews like her are thieves by habit. While anti-Semitism might still be a common factor among people of his age and status, Serge also does not hesitate to hit his wife when Nathalie is turned away from the house after George’s antics. These small instances do start to make Serge seem like a suspicious figure who has been painting a different picture of himself. In fact, Serge turns out to be a horrific patriarch who does not care about anybody else, and he does not want George to get his wealth because the daughter is the only one who stands up against his terrible attitude. The man’s numerous extramarital affairs and his rampant habit of being violent against his wife had made George extremely against her father. Serge had a son as well, named Frederic, whose life he had turned into hell when the son came out as gay, and although he had left his family forever, Serge keeps claiming that his son had died.
After learning these truths about the man she has been looking up to, Nathalie starts to relate to the women in the house more. She understands that George’s resolute stance to not let her get into the family and the house made sense, since Serge had been manipulating her for his benefit. When Nathalie refuses to appear in court, Serge lashes out against her as well, disrespectfully throwing money at her and even intentionally walking into the bathroom while she is taking a bath. Thus, during the court session, Nathalie lies and changes the entire scenario, stating that she found Serge to be physically and mentally sick, even stating that the man had sexually abused her. Serge is now legally declared incompetent, giving George control over the business, and the man has a heart attack, having to be admitted to the hospital.
At the hospital, Serge also reveals that he knew Nathalie was actually not Stephane but had been playing along all this while in order to use her to his benefit. Serge had been the one to look for his illegitimate daughter and had found out about Stephane, even getting to know about the murder charge against her. The man had attended his daughter’s trial, too, and knew very well that Stephane was supposed to be in prison at the time.
Why does George decide to support Nathalie?
When Nathalie hears Serge confess to using her during this whole time, she can no longer contain her anger and also decides that the man must be gotten rid of to avoid any suspicion against her. Therefore, the woman chokes Serge with a pillow and kills him on the hospital bed. But during this time, George had been standing near the door of the room, too, hearing her father speak all these words. She gets to know that Nathalie is an imposter, and then she even witnesses the murder take place. While George is too shocked initially, she quickly chooses sides and decides to support Nathalie after realizing that the woman was not greedy for inheritance after all. Although Nathalie had come into the lives of the Dumontets for financial gains, she had seemingly found real family members in Louise, George, and the latter’s daughter, Jeanne.
This is primarily the reason for George to suddenly support Nathalie, as she perhaps feels that the woman had been wronged by Serge, by staying absent from her entire life, just like she and her mother had been wronged by the man in other ways. Therefore, George never tells anyone about Nathalie’s actions, instead making Serge’s death seem like a natural incident. The man’s death reaches his original daughter, Stephane, in prison, too, and although she is not allowed by the police to visit the funeral, the woman flees and attends the event. Very quickly, Stephane learns about Nathalie’s betrayal, for the supposed lover has now taken her identity in front of her family. George once again supports Nathalie, for she has become like a sister to the woman now, and both she and Louise consider Nathalie to be a part of their family.
What happens to Nathalie in the end?
Although the crisis is averted during the funeral, as Stephane is forced out of the place by George, the real daughter has not left the island just yet. That night, Stephane again appears near the Dumontet house, and this time, her intention is to burn down the entire house as a helpless and twisted reaction against Nathalie’s betrayal. However, the protagonist notices her, and this leads to a final attempt by her to manipulate the woman she has been impersonating. But Stephane does not fall for it anymore, and she remains determined in her plan for revenge. Nathalie is finally able to overpower Stephane, though, and she kills the woman, dumping her body in the water.
But this does not really ensure a safe and happy end for Nathalie, for the police soon reach the Dumontet house, looking for Stephane. The woman had run away from prison, and so the police had started to track her phone location, which led them to the island. George and Louise initially manage to get the police away simply because they know the men personally. But trouble strikes when the police call up Stephane’s phone, and it rings from inside Nathalie’s pocket. Although Nathalie had claimed not to have seen Stephane, she had forgotten about the fact that she had taken off Stephane’s phone and kept it to herself.
During The Origin of Evil‘s ending, we see Nathalie standing bemused, but it is quite evident that gets caught by the police. Despite having come so close to pulling off the biggest and most profitable identity theft, Nathalie loses to fate in the end and gets dragged back to prison once again.