“Be careful, I love you”
Ne le dis à personne [Tell No One] is an ambitious adaptation of a Harlan Coben novel by French actor Guillaume Canet. I was completely surprised when checking out the actors’ names and seeing his as character Philippe Neuville, a deceased horse rider and integral part of the story. The writer/director could not be this young man; with all the accolades and success in my eyes of this intricately plotted thriller, I was expecting someone older and more accomplished at the craft. Knowing that this was put together by a young actor directing only his second feature just adds to the splendor at hand. It is often said, but I do believe it is true, actors seem to perform at their best with one of their own as leader. Every performance is strong—flawlessly enhancing a taut script that slowly uncovers the mystery of a woman’s disappearance and sudden surfacing eight years later.
With many visual stunning sequences, Canet shows skill at capturing the simple moments in an otherwise extravagant plot. A husband and wife, two souls that have been together since grade school, go to his family’s land for an evening of skinny-dipping when she decides to go back and let the dogs out. A scream for help causes Alexandre Beck to go after Margot, only to be struck twice with a bat, knocked unconscious, falling to the bottom of the lake. Eight years pass and we discover he was somehow saved and found on the dock, in a coma, where he survived only to find that his wife’s body had been victim to a notorious serial killer. Not quite allowing himself to let go, Alexandre becomes close to his sister’s wife as confidant, while still a bit strained with the sibling, and buries himself in his work as a Pediatrician. His job becomes his life and he loves the children that he helps, not doing it for the money, but instead the satisfaction of helping and saving lives. He even has cultivated a relationship with a local street thug Bruno, in his debt after Beck proved his son was a hemophiliac and was not beaten by his father. As the story continues on we find that we should all have a criminal on our moral payroll…they can come in quite handy.
When the doctor gets a strange email at work, he begins to question whether the body found almost a decade earlier was really that of Margot. The message appears to be from her, trying to reach out in secrecy, because she says they are watching him. Here is where the story could have gone off the tracks as it introduces so many different threads that all end up being well thought out and important. We become knowledgeable of a team of heavies keeping tabs on Beck while the woman of the team inflicts torture through pressure points to gather information. Deaths begin to mount and evidence starts to be planted, framing Beck while also reigniting the speculation that he could have been the one to kill his wife. Margot’s father begins to act strange, horse-breeding millionaire Gilbert Neuville is introduced along with the murder of his son, and the police inspectors on Beck’s tail start to act smart and think that maybe something bigger than initially anticipated is going on. Beck must do whatever he can to stay away from the men trying to kill him, the men trying to arrest him, and the sinking feeling that whoever is contacting him might not be the woman he can’t live without.
The slow unraveling of the story has its pros and cons. By not telling the audience who any of the characters are at the beginning, or their relationship to each other, we are keep in the dark and constantly surprised as they all reenter the story. A jovial dinner party starts the film and each person becomes a cog in the system as Beck commences the journey to see whether Margot is alive. What doesn’t work, however, is that this script is very airtight and extremely detailed. As a result, the audience begins to put the pieces together before the characters onscreen do. Sure the filmmakers try to deflect aspects by showing you one thing, (what certain actors are viewing), before showing the truth, (what actually is happening), the end result always ends up being what you think. Therefore, the final half becomes a tad tedious, waiting for the inevitable to occur, wondering when Beck and the rest will be brought into the light. I understand that we as viewers get to see things the cast does not, but I just thought they probably could have cut a half hour out by expediting the finale.
What is perfect, though, is the stellar acting. Even with small roles, Jean Rochefort shines with his stoic, affluent stature, and Kristin Scott Thomas is effective as Beck’s best friend and sister-in-law, showing that she should have been born in France and not England. It is also a lot of fun seeing François Berléand as a dramatic police inspector to counter the comedic one he plays in the Transporter series. The most memorable actors end up being our two leads, as one should expect nothing less. Marie-Josée Croze’s beauty makes you believe the love and compassion her husband has for her. First seen by me last year in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Croze must go through many emotions here, the lover and the moral compass for those she works with; when the truth is uncovered as to what really happened to her, you’ll see the strife gone through, breaking her into doing things you couldn’t think she was capable of. As for Beck, François Cluzet carries this film on his back. His geniality is always prevalent, showing the most when with his patients, but while on the run, he really steps it up a notch. When traveling with Bruno, he bluffs his way out of tight spots and even causes a gigantic automobile collision when running for his life. It is a complicated role and one he pulls off to perfection.
Tell No One 8/10 | ★ ★ ★