“Tell No One” is an uncommonly thoughtful and emotional thriller. The plot provides enough twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat, but the film’s real strength lies in our ability to feel the characters’ pain. Guillaume Canet’s story of a husband on the run from the police and searching for the truth eight years after the death of his beloved wife is equal parts pulse-pounding and heartbreaking, and although the film’s mystery requires a lengthy explanation by one of the characters (the type of scene I’m really not crazy about), it kept me at the very least intrigued, often enthralled, throughout.
The film begins with a charming prologue in which Alexandre Beck (Francois Cluzet) and his wife, Margot (Marie-Josee Croze), travel to the lake where they fell in love as children. They swim, kiss, and visit a tree on which their initials are inscribed within a heart. After a minor disagreement on a floating dock, Margot swims ashore, but she is attacked and before Alexandre can reach her, he is knocked unconscious into the water.
Eight years later, Alexandre still hasn’t come to terms with his wife’s death that night. We slowly learn that he was the prime suspect in her murder, while a mystery still looms about how he got out of the water that night. The mystery deepens when Alexandre receives an anonymous video e-mail which makes it seem as if his wife is alive. Another e-mail he receives instructs him to “tell no one” for “they” are watching.
To make matters worse, two bodies are discovered at the very same place where his wife’s murder took place. A number of clues compel the police to reconsider Alexandre as a suspect, and when the bodies start piling up, our hero goes on the run, determined to find out what really happened that night eight years ago.
I’m not doing “Tell No One’s” plot justice, but that’s because it’s very intricate and revealing all the layers here would rob you of some of the film’s best moments. I do, however, think Canet could have spaced his revelations out a little better so that we didn’t need to be sat down for the film’s final 15 minutes (in frustrating “The Maltese Falcon” style) explaining everything and tying up every loose thread. I find it so much more satisfying if, as a viewer, I can figure things out as I go. “Tell No One” is beyond that.
The acting is exceptional all-around. Francois Cluzet is tremendous as Alexandre, a man who desperately clings to his memories of his beloved wife, even as he slowly discovers details of her life he couldn’t possibly imagine. His humanity elevates the material from standard (albeit interesting) thriller to emotionally involving work of art. He is ably supported by Kristin Scott Thomas (again speaking flawless French as she did in “I’ve Loved You So Long”) who plays Alexandre’s sister’s wife and his closest confidante, and Andre Dussollier as Margot’s ex-police chief father.
“Tell No One” is both an engrossing mystery and an affecting drama. It took me a long time to finally see this, but it was worth the wait. There’s nothing about this film that makes it inaccessible to audiences other than the subtitles, yet I hadn’t really heard too much about it. I urge you all to check it out if you haven’t yet. You won’t be let down.