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Tell No One (Ne le dis à personne)

July 31, 2007

Tell No One, a French movie adapted from the US thriller by Harlan Coben, follows Paris Paediatrician Alex Beck (François Cluzet), still devastated by the murder of his wife Margo (Marie-Josée Croze), eight years previously. One day, Alex receives an anonymous email. When he clicks on the link he sees Margot’s face standing in a crowd and being filmed in real time. Is she still alive? And why does she instruct him to “tell no one”?

At the same time, the bodies of two men are uncovered near the site where Margot was discovered, and this reinvigorates the police investigation and takes the authorities back to their initial thoughts on the crime, that Alex was guilty of his wife’s murder.

From this intriguing premise, young director Guillaume Canet, a winner at the César and Lumiere awards with this, could go down the convoluted thriller route, and he most certainly does, but he also manages to invest the story with real emotional clout. The connection between Alex and Margot has a terrific pull, and even when there are breathless chases and gruesome deaths (another tick, à la Zodiac incidentally, in the box marked unsentimental and brief) we never lose track of that fact that the engine of the whole film is the main characters’ love for each other. Technically, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Canet is older than his 24 years…one bravura scene, where Alex has to escape the police by crossing the Paris ringroad, the Périphérique, on foot, avoiding the speeding traffic, will have you pressed back into your seat stupefied…but then that’s followed by moments of genuine pathos because you actually give a toss about this guy.

I was fortunate enough to attend a preview screening (Tell No One doesn’t open properly in the UK until 15th June) where Canet did a Q&A after the showing, and what a smashing fella he turned out to be; very funny and full of great anecdotes about how he came to the project (it was intended to be Michael Apted’s next feature, starring Keanu Reeves), about the brilliant music (recorded in two hours by French guitarist Mathieu Chedid whilst watching the first screening of the film), about the Périphérique scene (“we had to sleep with the Mayor of Paris to secure it”), and about his move from acting (he’s in the film briefly) to moving behind the camera.

Much more information would undoubtedly leak key plot twists to the intuitive readers of this site, and that you don’t want. If there’s a weakness, actually, it’s that there may almost be too much plot, and the final explanation takes too long to be delivered, but that’s a minor grumble, for this is a super bit of entertainment, and it’s introduced me to Marie-Josée Croze:

who is enough to stop the traffic wherever she might appear.

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