Eight years ago everything was going well for Alexandre Beck (François Cluzet), he was successful in his job as a paediatrician, was married to his childhood sweetheart Margot (Marie-Josée Croze), and was embarking on another trip to their old, countryside haunt, a lake they had visited since they were children and carved their names into a tree at that age to commemorate their love. But this time, it would all go horribly wrong, because after a day of relaxing by the water, Margot swam to the shore to let the dog out of the car - and Alexandre never saw her again...
Or did he? There are a host of questions running through your mind as you watch Tell No One, an especially convoluted thriller that hit surprisingly big internationally. It is undoubtedly a sophisticated piece of work, and keeps you guessing throughout its two hours of running time, but perhaps its real strength was that after all this intrigue, you did not feel as though you had been cheated by a solution that came out of the blue, as all the clues are laid out throughout the plot and it simply needs that customary conclusion to this kind of mystery, the key character telling us all what really happened, to tie them together.
Alexandre is in the dark because he was knocked out soon after he went to assist his wife all those years before, which landed him in a coma for three days. When he woke up, he found his father-in-law, a police officer, had identified Margot's body and the chief suspect was a serial killer of women who had been active in the area. Yet the trick to this film is that there is a gradual accumulation of niggling facts that do not match with the official version of what happened, one of those being that the serial killer never admitted to the law that he had actually slain Margot, in spite of admitting to seven other deaths.
Fair enough, you think, until Alexandre is in his office one day and receives an e-mail from an anonymous source (how nice to see the internet portrayed convincingly in the movies for a change) that links to a webcam. He keeps checking it until he sees why the cryptic message has ordered him to "Tell no one" about it: on the image there appears a woman who has the exact likeness of Margot. He dare not go to the police, mainly because two bodies have been found by the lake and he is now a suspect in his wife's murder as the case is reopened. Suddenly the screws are being tightened on Alexandre - as well as us in the audience as we try to second guess the filmmakers.
It's not worth trying though, as you'll never work the truth out, it's simply too complex. Not that it makes the ending incomprehensible, it's just that you have to have your wits about you if you're going to follow it all. Actor-turned-director Guillaume Canet (who appears in this too, taking a role you presume few would be keen to play) adapts Harlan Coben's novel with fellow thesp Philippe Lefebvre (he's in this as well), and it definitely has the structure of one of those thrillers you might read on holiday, a true page turner on this evidence. There's plenty of talk, but the style is elegant and compulsively attention-grabbing, with a chase on foot particularly exciting as Alexandre does the foolish thing and goes on the run from the police. What the film's secret appears to be is its faith in the truth being revealed and justice done no matter how long it takes, so that the good guys' reputations are restored, and the bad guys are brought down. Music by Mathieu Chedid.