Unfolding with fecund ripeness in a long and languorous day and evening in the French countryside, where some siblings and their respective others share a meal and sharp-edged conversation at the old family house, the film plays with the notion of barely-concealed secrets and a hint of rottenness. When Alex Beck (Francois Cluzet) chases his wife Margot (Marie-Josee Croze) through a forested pathway lined with lushly blooming flowers, the scene is romantic but weighted with death -- it wouldn't surprise you to find out that the soil was so rich due to bodies being buried there. Like the childhood sweethearts they once were, Alex and Margot swim playfully in a small pond and then coil up naked in the warm night air on a floating raft. She goes ashore; there are sounds of a struggle. Alex, panicked, swims for the dock only to get whacked unconscious by an unseen assailant.
Cut to eight years later, and Alex is going through the motions as a pediatrician, acquitted in his wife's murder after her body was found, but now left without much of a reason to live. There are glimpses that Alex may in fact be quite good at his job, but Canet (who co-wrote the screenplay with Philippe Lefebvre, an actor appearing here as a police lieutenant) is more intent on the stasis of Alex's life, how the shards of his former life never quite fit back together. Canet is quite good at this sort of thing, edging viewers into this mystery sideways and making it clear things are not at all what they seem long before the other shoe drops.
In a scene that a Hollywood film would have gone right over the top with using shrieking violins and camera zooms, but Canet plays for low-key mystery, Alex gets an email containing a video clip of a woman strongly resembling Margot. Genre conventions begin to kick in after that, what with the cops having just found a pair of corpses buried near where Margot was supposedly murdered. Since they always liked Alex for the first murder, the discovery of more dead bodies on his family land gives them ample excuse to come sniffing around. There are also some other shadowy figures lurking about who seem just a little too interested in Margot's whereabouts, and a multitude of clues for Alex to untangle at a leisurely pace. Although given a longer running time than needed, Canet doesn't bother to limn most of the characters' backgrounds, leaving viewers to untangle the web of unclear relationships until near the end when everything is made clear in a chunk of exposition that would have seemed self-parodic even back in Raymond Chandler's day.
Canet surrounds Cluzet -- a befuddled-looking and fairly bland choice for the leading man -- with a stable of sharper performers, most particularly Kristin Scott Thomas as the partner of Alex's sister. Playing a blond restaurateur with an eye for other ladies, Scott Thomas brings a crackle to every scene she's in, infusing Canet's easygoing narrative with some well-needed zest. A 90-minute policier that staggers on for an undeserved 125 minutes, Tell No One never comes to grips with its standard-issue plot mechanics, delivering neither the icy thriller that its cool detachment edges towards, nor the pulse-quickening potboiler that its story would seem to demand.
Aka Ne le dis à personne.
I won't if you won't.
Run time: 131 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 1st November 2006
Box Office USA: $6.0M
Distributed by: Music Box Films
Production compaines: TLA Releasing
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Fresh: 101 Rotten: 7
IMDB: 7.6 / 10
Director: Guillaume Canet
Producer: Alain Attal
Screenwriter: Guillaume Canet, Philippe Lefebvre
Starring: Josafat Vagni as Mattia, Valeria Bilello as Stefania, Francesco Montanari as Giacomo / Alba Paillettes, Monica Guerritore as Aurora, Ninni Bruschetta as Rodolfo
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