There is something crooked in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, and he tells us that right away with a crooked shot oaf an apartment building. Inside that building is a young man laying on a bad, totally despondent, sighing a sigh of absolute despair even. The room is a mess, and cheap, his suit expensive, his stature handsome, and there’s oh so much money sown all around his bed. His tenant informs him that two men are looking for him. He has a choice to make. The choice he makes is to make a run for it and visit his sister’s family further west, in California.
Ever since their childhood, his sister loved him like her very own child. Their first interaction gives away a motherly love so intense, you would think that any bad news about her brother would have a seismic effect on his sister. But he’s not the only one who is “over the moon” to see him. His niece Charlie, his namesake, has been so keen on seeing him that she has develop a telekinetic, at least according to her, connection with him. She’s hoping his visit will sake the family rut they are in, bring a spark of excitement into their mundane lives.
Be careful what you wish for.
Don’t meet your heroes.
Uncle Charles is generous and charming. He gifts every single person in the family expensive gifts, and he has time to indulge everyone, even is sisters annoying widow friends, being quite cordial with one of them in the bank. It is in the moment when the uncle gifts his niece a emerald ring, that the tale of two Charlies diverges. His secrecy, his flashes of loud and aggressive behavior, combined with the appearance of two government men who are eager to ask the family everything they can think off will send young niece Charlie down a rabbit hole where she will be faced with a decision that could alter her whole family for decades to come.
One thing that Hitchcock does very well is portraying children. In a lot of movies, they are just one dimensional, poorly acted mess. In Hitchcock films, he knows how to draw out the peculiarity of children. Children are irrational and they develop quirky obsessions over time. Both Ann and Roger, the two young children of the family, exhibit such behavior. Ann likes to read classical historical fiction, like Ivanhoe, and Roger spends his days counting his steps, trying to figure out the distance between every place he frequents. Hope he lived to see Google Earth and pedometers.
One thing I can’t never get behind are the romances in Hitchcock films. They always leave a forced and sudden, rarely any believable. It is as suddenly there’s a click in the female leads head and voila, she’s head over heels for a guy she shared a scene or two previously.
The highlight of the film by far is the reveal. Hitchcock trusts his audience; he knows the have obviously figured it all out. A lesser filmmaker would try and flip the script, going for a less brutal reveal. But this is where Hitchcock triumphs. The reveal is as horrifying and blood freezing to us as it is to the young Charlie.
Money buys a grand legacy.