Here we are with another unnecessarily detailed lecture on a movie you probably will not see. I love writing this blog. As ever with DTAD?, we will not shy away from spoilers.
TELL NO ONE (France, 2006; USA in 2008). Screenplay by Guillaume Canet, Phillip Lefebvre. Directed by Guillaume Canet. Based on novel by Harlan Coben.
Tell No One opens somewhere in the French countryside, as some friends enjoy each other’s company around a picnic table just by a rustic house. Otis Redding’s For Your Precious Love rests loudly in the mix, unignorably in the foreground, setting the tone as peaceful and pleasant and warm. Alex (Francois Cluzet) and Margot (Marie-Josee Croze), later, find themselves alone, at a lake, where they take a nude swim and lay, wet and comfortable, holding each other, on a raft near the middle of the lake. Their exposure here is sexual only in part. Primarily, their nudity explains an utter, mutual comfort with each other, and with their surroundings. There is nothing naughty about what they’re doing. Nothing mysterious. No need to be quiet, or stay in the dark. They are two people who are innocent as children, perfectly where they ought to be.
A spat breaks the placid evening, though, and Margot swims back to shore to be alone. Moments after disappearing from the shore, she screams. Alex stands up on the raft and calls for her. He calls again, and, again, she screams his name. He dives into the water, swimming desperately for the dock, and, reaching it, he climbs the ladder, where he is promptly clobbered and left unconscious in the water.
Eight years later, Margot is dead, her killer in prison, and Alex has a successful pediatric practice. He still mourns his lost wife. He is still alone. And then the wheels start to turn. He gets mysterious emails that appear to be from Margot. The bodies of two men are found near where Margot was thought to be killed, and they appear connected to Margot’s murder–Alex is now a suspect, himself. There is, of course, a long-standing question as to how Alex ended up on the dock after landing in the lake unconscious. There are, eight years later, enough questions and loose ends to find suspicion.
And so, a chase begins. The police are after Alex for apparently murdering Margot. Alex is on the run from the police and toward, he hopes, the still-breathing Margot. And a third group of people are going ’round killing people for information and torturing people by squeezing their organs while still in their chest. As put by Roger Ebert, the plot “is not merely airtight, it’s hermetically sealed”.
The movie is shot exquisitely. For long sequences, the camera moves so slightly, so passively, that the entire movie seems safe and calm. The camera rests on the hard-melting facial expressions of a kaleidoscope of family and friends, dealing with the trauma of recalling a murder. And, finally, when things get rolling, when no facial contortions could possibly matter, the camera shakes with all the drama and terror of the scene it follows.
The shots are composed gorgeously. During the long, blood-drainingly tense scene which (in fine film noir style) reveals the entire mystery to Alex, the lights are off in the house, and a brilliant afternoon sun shines through the white curtains, giving the house an eerie white and blue glow. At one point, Margot’s father, tired and retired, with a blue shirt and white hair, stands before one window, explaining what happened eight years before to his daughter. Opposite him, seated, before another blazing white window, in another blue shirt, but with dark hair, is the younger man, Alex, defeated and desperate, hearing the explanation. The scene, and shot, are devastating.
The ending becomes obvious before it is given to the audience. Its expectation makes it no less compelling, however. Alex finds himself back at tree where he and Margot marked their anniversaries as children and adults–a place he hadn’t been to in eight years, and finds eight new marks slashed into the bark. He falls to his knees–catharsis comes hard for Greeks and Frenchmen alike–and behind him, coming through the trees, is Margot. She’s so pale and perfect and so out of focus, she seems as though a ghost. She approaches Alex, who must know she is there, from behind, silently, and it isn’t until she finally touches him that the moment, the reunion, the resurrection from the dead, becomes real to Alex, and real to us.
This movie has a lot going on. Confusion and conspiracy to rival The Big Sleep (though, thankfully, there is the aforementioned Reveal scene), but with every detail in place, every character accounted for and necessary. But, if you let the movie take you where it intends to go, if you don’t waste precious moments dwelling on your absence of understanding, this is the most rewarding kind of movie there is. Impressive on every level.
Oh, and, I mean, how sweet is the poster?