Tell No One

In a summer of CGI effects and comic book super-heroes, mature film lovers are longing for an ultra-classy intelligent thriller. Your wait is over. Tell No One, the highly praised French version of the American-authored international bestseller, has finally come to a local theatre, the Fine Arts in downtown Asheville.

Tell No One is based on Harlan Coben’s compelling 2001 tale of loss and redemption, set in New York. The move to France, and the changes the film’s young director Guillaume Canet (Mon Idole) made in the plot, are perfect—there’s good reason the movie won four Césars (the French Oscar). All the performances are extraordinary, the cinematography is gorgeous and the sound track is both catchy and uncanny. There are no loopholes in the finely wrought script, but there are subtle clues, so you’ll have to pay attention. Just remember the themes: everyone has secrets, the highest levels of society are linked to the lowest, and family is the tightest bond.

Tell No One is told in a sophisticated, often languorous style, relying on visuals more than dialogue. Thus, those who are leery of movies with subtitles should have no problem with this film. Since the relationships between the characters are crucial to understanding the plots twists, here’s an overview.

Dr. Alex Beck (Françoise Cluzet, Rivals) and his beloved wife Margot (Marie-Josée Croze, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) were inseparable since childhood. Shortly after their marriage, in the forest where they carved their initials in a tree, Alex is knocked unconscious and Margot is brutally murdered. While Alex lay in a coma for three days, Margot’s father, Jacques (Andre Dussolier, Coeurs), a local cop now retired, identified her body and supervised having it readied for cremation. The crime is blamed on a serial killer.

Eight years later, now a busy pediatrician in a clinic for the poor, Alex still grieves inconsolably. Since his father died years ago in a hunting accident, Alex’s world of adults is a narrow one. He has a take-charge friend, Hélène (Kristin Scott-Thomas, The English Patient), who is the lover of his sister, Anne (Marina Hands, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), a budding horse riding champion who practices on the nearby estate of the powerful aristocratic, Gilbert Neuville (Jean Rochefort, Mr. Bean’s Holiday). Neuville is also grieving because his son Philippe (played by the film’s director, Guillaume Canet) was murdered shortly before Margot was and the killer was never identified.

The newspaper reveals shocking news—the bodies of two men have been unearthed near the spot where Margot was killed. Then Alex receives a soul-wrenching email that seems to come from beyond the grave. “Tell no one,” the message says. “They are watching.” Is Margot really still alive? Who is watching them? Who is keeping them apart?

The police reopen his wife’s murder case and now Alex becomes the prime suspect. While searching for Margot, he must flee not only from the police, but from unknown assailants bent on his annihilation. In desperation, he seeks help from a local thug, Bruno, (Gilles Lelouche, Narco) whose son was his patient. In typical Hitchcockian fashion, Alex goes from naïf to fugitive, from his safe Paris apartment to the dangerous byways of the city’s underworld. There’s no car chase in Tell No One. Instead there’s a phenomenal foot race, including a death-defying rush across the highway that circles Paris. Driven by his love for Margot, Alex eventually discovers why he was told to “tell no one.” and the ending, though told in an old-fashioned confession scene, is a worthy one.

One way to judge a movie is by the quality of its secondary characters and Tell No One is served well by a superb cast of supporting actors. Even more appealing is that many of these characters are women, including a fierce fashionable attorney and an iceberg-cold assassin.

It’s a thriller. It’s a love story. It’s for adults. Don’t miss Tell No One.

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