July 20, 2008
The French thriller Tell No One is, in addition to being a taut and mostly engaging film, also an example of the kind that may be best experienced as a novel. I haven't read the book by Harlan Coben, but writer/director Guillaume Canet's adaptation of it is so complex that it eventually succumbs to the weight of its details. I'm a pretty perceptive viewer, which is a blessing and a curse. I can pick up on the little details that piece the story together, but I also find it hard to let the little flaws go.
In this case, it was a matter of reconciling the story's timeline and relationships, as well as accepting the fact that some fairly large plot details depended on characters that we learn about for the first time near the end of the film. Everything I've just described is necessary for a good thriller, but for all the mental work we do in getting to the end of this movie, I have to admit I was hoping for a greater reward from Canet.
I don't mean to be sounding this critical of Tell No One; it's worthy of the César awards it won (including for its outstanding soundtrack), and while the whole film couldn't keep the energy of the first half hour, it still kept my attention for the full 125-minute running time.
For this I applaud the ensemble cast led by François Cluzet, Marie-Josée Croze (let's forget that she was in Battlefield Earth, she shone in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), and Kristin Scott-Thomas (featuring an impressive fluency in French). Canet even cast himself as one of the film's most disgusting characters. Some sudden adrenaline bursts also help keep the story moving along briskly, including one of the better footchase I've seen in a while (and one that features brilliant cinematography).
I've yet to mention even one detail about the plot. Does that matter? Tell No One is not the kind of movie you see because you're interested in its story, but because you're interested in how that story is told. By that measure it's a success, albeit it a success that I doubt will leave a lasting impression with me.