Tell No One introduces us to Alex Beck almost from the very first frame. He has a life one could envy. Fresh from medical school and ready to start his career as a pediatrician. He married his childhood love, enjoys a warm friendship circle, and seems genuinely happy. What could go wrong? Well apparently quite a bit.
The film is taken from the bestselling novel of the same name by Harlan Coben. Mr. Coben is crime writer extraordinaire and has accomplished the equivalent of the writer’s hat trick by winning the Edgar, Shamus and Anthony awards for his work. Mr. Coben is American and lives in New Jersey, but the film was shot by Guillaume Canet, a French filmmaker, and screened with English subtitles. It was a bit of a gamble, because the crime genre is so familiar to movie audiences in America. Seeing how Mr. Canet would interpret the material through his native culture and backdrop made for a thought-provoking experience.
Pic opens with a slow reveal of information that leads one to the conclusions described in this review’s opening paragraph. We get it all very quickly. As the perfect couple, Alex (Francois cluzet) and bride Margot (Marie-Josée Croze) take a nostalgia trip to a childhood swimming hole. After a long day of sun and swim they have a disagreement about Alex’s sister. Margot swims back across the lake in a moment of protest. The next thing we hear is her screaming. Alex follows in panic and once dockside, is clubbed in the stomach and head, and sent back into the water.
Fast forward several years into the future. We are re-introduced to Alex. This time in a life without Margot. He has fallen into a robotic, lifeless existence that is almost unrecognizable. We learn that Margot was killed that night and Alex was considered a suspect. One day he receives an e-mail that appears to be from his presumably dead wife. She sets a rendezvous date and time at a local park, and warns Alex to, “Tell no one.” It’s a little bit of a stretch but you are willing to go with it. What follows is one twist after another.
Both a thriller and a love story, Francois Cluzet as Alex Beck, does a fine job at playing this dual role as well as the before and after Margot character. Once he reads the e-mail message he is filled with a hope not felt since that fateful night. The police intercept his messages and are still looking to pin the murder on him. Alex turns out to be a formidable challenge for the police. The cops have lost effectiveness because of the tension between the clean ones and the ones on the take. The acting requires high physical demands and Mr. Cluzet is up to the challenge. He enlists the street smarts of a gang member whose son he treated and protected.
Alex is able to hire a high powered attorney, Maître Elysabeth Feldman (Nathalie Bayne) thanks to his sister’s wealthy restaurateur lover Hélène Perkins played by Kristin Scott Thomas, who speaks French and looks as radiant as ever. Like so many others in this film, Ms. Perkins constantly smokes. This picture should come with a surgeon’s general warning about the dangers of second hand smoke.
The story is perhaps a little too tricky for its own good. The audience is definitely intellectually challenged, and director Guillaume Canet is up to the exciting chase scenes. But it seems over-staged. Mr. Canet goes back over the footage several times to ensure his audience keeps up. An effective enough technique, but somewhat overused. They are shooting for Hitchcock, but fall short.
This picture has a lot of strengths. We see a wonderful mix of French countryside and city locations. The pace is quick without causing whiplash, and you find yourself being invested in several of the characters. Matthieu Chedid’s score uses only one or two instruments at a time, which brings a darkness to the film that is only fully revealed in the final scenes.
If subtitles don’t bother you, and why should they, all of you can read, I would highly recommend this film to anyone looking for something off the Hollywood well worn path. It will stimulate your mind for days on end.
All photos courtesy of Revolver Entertainment. Visit the Tell No One official web site here.