Tell No One
Taut Thriller Done Right

Guillaume Canet is a genius, and he brings Harlan Coben’s best-selling novel to vibrant life in Tell No One (Ne le dis à personne). This is a French film, lovingly birthed by Canet and filled with exceptional French actors who obviously poured their hearts and souls into their parts.

Alexandre Beck is a pediatric doctor who after eight years is still mourning the loss of his beautiful wife, Margot. After only being married to Alex a short time, Margot is brutally murdered—supposedly by a serial murderer… who confesses seven other murders, but not Margot’s. Just as new evidence is discovered and the police are about to reopen the case (which now points to Alex as the killer), Alex receives a strange message on his computer at work that shows a woman who looks like Margot standing at the entrance to a train station. Peculiar e-mails follow, and Alex becomes more and more convinced that Margot may still be alive.

François Cluzet as Alex in Tell No OneAlong with this is the cryptic message to “tell no one,” and Alex begins a mysterious and dangerous journey to find out what is really happening. The problem is that Alex now has the police on his hands—and in his face—as they also try to solve the crime.

The first thing that Canet does really well is to give his audience the real Paris, not the touristy postcard version. Beck finds himself in all kinds of company as he tries to hunt for Margot while staying out of the hands of the police. The viewer is introduced to the areas of Paris where gang activity is the norm and everyone seems to be armed to the teeth and not afraid to pepper an area with bullets at the slightest provocation. The Paris Beltway becomes the scene of a nail-biting, goose-bumpy foot chase—and suburban housing projects, flea markets, and the rundown neighborhood where Alex lives all juxtapose against the high-rent Avenue Montaigne and Parc Monceau. The settings are rich in local flavor and perfectly set off the characters associated with each.

According to the press notes, Canet filmed with two cameras. One was a handheld that he operated himself. Canet proves to be not only a good director, but very adept at filming, especially with his close ups. He captures great depth from the eyes of his characters… especially François Cluzet, who plays Alex Beck. Cluzet has amazing eyes that can tell a myriad of stories in a few short seconds of time. Numerous emotions fill the screen in an eerie but deliciously evocative way.

The cast that Canet has assembled for Tell No One is also award-worthy. In addition to Cluzet, he brings in Marie-Josée Croze (The Diving Bell and The Butterfly), Kristin Scott-Thomas (The Other Boleyn Girl, The Golden Compass), François Berléand as the slightly obsessive policeman, Nathalie Baye as the high-class attorney, and Jean Rochefort as the millionaire owner of a show-jumping stable. These main characters, and indeed the remaining cast, play their parts so thoroughly that it never seems as if a film is running. I was completely unaware of my surroundings and totally enthralled with the action and characterizations on the screen. Every character is consistent throughout, down to the companion of the drug dealer who drives the big, black Chevrolet.

Canet and his editor have done a fine job of presenting a movie that is taut, thrilling, suspenseful, and romantic while maintaining cohesiveness and movement. The movie is a bit over two hours long but never lags or makes the viewer aware that any time is important—except within the context of the story.

Finally, Canet chose to shoot the film during the summer, which not only shows off the French city and countryside to perfection but also allows Canet to use light in many amazing ways—especially in his close ups of characters’ faces, and in the play on water which Canet uses as a metaphor for several characters’ sense of drowning in the circumstances that ebb and flow around them.

Although I found myself wishing I spoke fluent French so that I could forego the subtitles, even reading them did not distract from the majesty and cunning of the story. Even as the plot begins to unpeel in the end, and layers and layers of intrigue are revealed, the ending comes as a total surprise.

Too bad this film will only have a limited run in art house theaters. It is a real treat!

Tell No One is unrated. If I were going to rate it, I would give it an R. There is nudity, some pretty gnarly murder scenes, and violence that is disturbing. The “f” word in French always sounds so sophisticated, but one has to remember that it will be right there in plain old English in the subtitles!  This is an adult film, and will only be enjoyed by an adult audience. Have a date night and leave even the teens at home.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Kathy attended a press screening of Tell No One.