TELL NO ONE ****
TELL NO ONE is a spine tingling masterpiece of barely repressed tension.
It grips you in its wake from the first few scenes and never lets up until the final frames dissolve.
ALEXANDRE BECK (FRANCOIS CLUZET, who bears a substantial resemblance to DUSTIN HOFFMAN) is a well to do pediatrician. His wife MARGOT (the lovely MARIE JOSEE CROZE) is a social worker. They are childhood sweethearts that have been married for years. They’re happy together and incredibly devoted to one another.
Alex’s sister Anne and her romantic partner HELENE (KRISTIN SCOTT THOMAS) own a riding stable out in the countryside. Alex and Margot are very familiar with the area. They grew up there. When they were very small, they carved their initials into a majestic oak tree and they return annually to mark another 365 days together.
In the opening scenes, they’re visiting Anne and Helene. You can hear the melancholy sweetness of OTIS REDDING’S FOR YOUR PRECIOUS LOVE on the soundtrack. Late one night, they decide to go for a moonlight swim.
They have a pointless argument – the kind that everyone has from to time. Margot becomes impatient and distracted. When she hears their dog close by, she decides to go and find him. She is only gone a few minutes when Alex hears her screaming. He attempts to rush to her aid but is knocked out cold. He falls back into the water.
Alex is in the hospital in a coma for three days. When he wakes up, he discovers that Margot is dead. He is a suspect for a period of time. Women are often killed by their husbands or boyfriends. Plus Alex had a substantial insurance policy out on her. The police don’t want to let it go until they’re sure. Her murder is blamed on a serial killer and the case is finally closed.
Cut to eight years later…
Alex is living his life. It’s difficult for him to get past what happened. But he’s trying. To his great shock and horror, he discovers that the cops have decided to proceed with Margot’s file and open up the investigation again. They’ve dug up the bodies of two young men at the scene who they assume were accomplices to the crime. A baseball bat was also found. It has Alex’s blood all over it.
As if that weren’t enough, on the anniversary of Margot’s death, someone sends Alex an odd email. It contains a brand new video of a woman who looks exactly like Margot.
The text reads, “Tell no one. We’re being watched.”
Those are the only details that will be divulged here. The less you know about this fabulous film, the better.
The acting is excellent across the board. But Ms. Scott Thomas is a particular stand out. Helene is a skeptic of the highest order. She’s dark, mischievous and great fun to watch. Her French is not only flawless but her acting is completely natural. If you hadn’t seen her before, you would have no idea that it wasn’t her first language.
But as terrific as the performers are, they are definitely in service to the twisting plot, the deep dread that looms over each individual moment and the almost unbearable anxiety. For those two hours you almost feel like you can’t breathe.
This is an uncommonly compelling motion picture: moody, atmospheric and dangerously alluring.
In these situations tone is everything. Considering the complications of the highly detailed narrative – and all of the other components of this story – there are so many things that could conceivably go wrong. But this is a monumental work that is very close to sheer perfection. It also has one of the most marvelously satisfying endings that you’ll ever experience.
GUILLAUME CANET is a great looking successful actor in his native land. He directed the picture, cowrote it (it’s an adaptation of HARLAN COBEN’S English language best seller) and acted in it as well. He does an exceptionally brilliant job at all of them.
There are scenes of sweeping poetic beauty. One is noteworthy because of the lushness of the brightly coloured rhododendrons, which seem to stretch out forever.
Then there are some others that are uncompromisingly gritty: the cops chasing Alex across a never ending freeway loaded with cars and a sequence where he hides in a dumpster with a rat and it comes very close to attacking him.
There are also some pulse pounding moments where Alex thinks he might have discovered what’s actually going on. He rushes along the street with his big woolly dog NINA, U2’S WITH OR WITHOUT YOU blaring in the background.
There are many unusual things about this movie. Some are small masterful touches. Others are more substantial. But English language music (some very popular) is used throughout. In a French film, that’s exceedingly rare.
This is a multilayered work that has a lot to say about matters of the heart and romantic relationships, in spite of the fact that it’s a cool superlative thriller. It’s about how love can transcend time. Be eternal and never ending.
How nothing can ever really separate you from the people that you care about. Not even death…
It’s unlikely that there will be a better foreign language film this year.
TELL NO ONE has both style – and substance – to burn…