A review of Tell No One

Reviewed by Paul Kane

Tell No One
Revolver Entertainment, France 2006
Running Time: 125 minutes
In French with English Subtitles
Directed by Guillaume Cane
Written by Philippe Lefebvre and Guillaume Canet
Cast: Francois Cluzet, Marie-Josée Croze, Kristin Scott-Thomas and others

Guillaume Canet’s film (its original French title is Ne le dis à personne) is an adaptation of Harlan Coben’s novel Tell No One. It is a thriller and a love story and an intelligent, effective piece of cinema to boot.
The main story concerns Alex Beck (played by Francois Cluzet, who gives an excellent performance), a paediatric doctor. Eight years ago, Alex’s wife Margot had been murdered, but he is still in thrall to her memory. Now, he receives an anonymous email and, after clicking on the attached video file, he sees a woman standing in a crowd who bears a close resemblance to his dead wife. Is Margot still alive? And if she is, what should he do? The text of the email carries an instruction: “Tell No One.”

Around this time also, Alex is visited by the police. Two bodies have just been found in the woods near where Margot was found dead, her body recovered and identified. The police have always believed that Alex killed his wife and now they reopen the case, with the clear intention to fit him up like a kipper for all three killings.

These initial perplexing events draw the viewer in, but it is Canet’s fast-paced direction that holds the attention. There is throughout an acceleration of event and incident – involving sinister forces that are still hard at work – and revelations concerning sexual abuse, rape, cover-up and murder. The most impressive sequence in the film features a long, frantic pursuit across Paris; Alex just manages to give the cops the slip.

Whilst this is a film with many excellent performances (Kristin Scott-Thomas as the lesbian lover of Alex’s sister being a notable turn) it does have one telling drawback: the ending is top-heavy with explanation. The cost of beginning the film with so many curious perplexing events is that some sense has to be given to them at the end. This emphasis on explanation may derive from Coben’s source novel, but perhaps it is simply a characteristic, or failing, of mystery as a genre. Anyway, there is no tolerance for implausibility here, as one might find, say, in the films of David Lynch or the fictions of Harry Mathews and Ben Marcus. Unexpected events cannot just happen; they need to be explained; and the only kind of coherence or truth is factual. There cannot be obscure happenings, such as frogs falling from the sky, in movies like Tell No One. Nonetheless, Tell No One is a stylish compelling film that is worth a second viewing but probably not a third (at least, not for a decade or so). It’s an effective thriller and it delivers an entertaining, enervating experience. Tell No One is on release at selected cinemas throughout the UK, and is showing at Manchester’s Cornerhouse (http://www.cornerhouse.org/) from 15 to 28 June 2007. Further details:


About the reviewer: Paul Kane lives and works in Manchester, England. He welcomes responses to his reviews and you can reach him at ludic@europe.com