When the police re-open the investigation into the murder of Dr. Alex Becks (Cluzet) wife, new evidence puts him under suspicion, and he must prove his innocence while corresponding with a mysterious emailer who implies she is still alive.
The beach heartthrob Guillaume Canet shows off his directing chops with this second feature, based on a Harlan Coben bestseller. The premise is instantly engaging, inviting the audience to share in hero Alex’s (François Cluzet) sleuthing into his wife’s death, as he fends off the cops while being stalked by some very dodgy criminals leaving bodies in their wake. And with the tantalising possibility that Alex’s murdered wife is actually still alive, you’ve got wall-to-wall tension with a strong emotional storyline woven through it.
Canet takes time setting up the central couple, creating a credible pairing between Cluzet and Marie-Josée Croze before moving on to the pining Alex eight years later (schmaltzy flashbacks to their childhood courtship are among Canet’s few mistakes). Alex’s daily life is shown in detail: a loner, he flits between his work as a paediatrician and meetings with friend Hélène (Kristin Scott Thomas, a capable French speaker). Hélène turns out to be the lover of Alex’s showjumper sister: it’s good to see these characters gradually established without having the word “lesbian” slapped on their foreheads.
Cluzet is excellent as the everyman under pressure, forced to investigate in secret and calling upon unlikely sources when he finds himself in deep. His gradual unveiling of the mystery has the air of a policier — and while the police themselves are mostly bad guys, one OCD-suffering cop does have a quirky, sympathetic air. Such eccentric character touches provide Tell No-One with humour as well as humanity: you won’t find any cliché-spouting law enforcers here.
Some characters could use more exposure: Jean Rochefort’s Gilbert Neuville stays largely in the background, his relationship with Alex initially unclear. But then, Tell No-One is deliberately fuzzy on detail until its jaw-dropping, if over-wrought reveal in which the complex plot is explained via monologue. Ah, but is it? Even readers of the novel will be kept guessing, as this adaptation throws in a few twists and turns of its own. Ultimately, it may seem a bit contrived, but the journey is such fun it would be churlish to object, and the ending is also genuinely moving. It’s a shame that such an accessible, entertaining film has yet to achieve a Stateside release. Maybe they’ll just remake it with Nicolas Cage.
A gripping thriller, this deserves to cross over from the subtitled bracket into mainstream cinema.