Tell No One

“Tell No One.” Guillaume Canet, director.  Eurocorp/Music Box USA 125 minutes. In French with English subtitles.

“Vertigo” meets “The Big Sleep” in this French thriller, and the result is movie magic.

Even if you didn’t hear the dialogue you would know this was a French film, beginning as it does with the camera intimately panning a large outdoor dinner party populated by happy, boisterous folks drinking wine, gossiping, and arguing politics congenially. At the center of the party are pediatrician Alexandre Beck (Francois Cluzet) and his beautiful, sexy wife, Margot (Marie Josee Crozee). On the way home from the party the two stop at their favorite lake for a midnight swim. As she runs playfully (and nakedly) through the woods, Margot suddenly screams. When Alexandre dashes frantically to find her (equally naked, and hence the decision of the distributors to run the film without a rating) his head is bashed in and the screen goes black.

Now it is eight years later, and Alexandre is still grieving the loss of his wife. He receives a stunning email that appears to be from her, setting up an Internet appointment and warning him, “Tell no one.” When he opens the link at the appointed time, he sees a video in real time of Margot entering a subway station. From that moment the film becomes a Hitchcockian thriller, full of hairpin plot twists, gargoylean characters, and limitless suspects. Characters come out of nowhere to help and to thwart our hero as he desperately tries to find out whether his wife is alive, while simultaneously having to prove yet again that he did not kill her.

Hollywood doesn’t make films like this anymore, but thank goodness the French do.  Like classic film noire, “Tell No One” takes us into the often seedy world of the elegant upper class with a story that works, start to finish. The plot is complex, sexy, and deliberately, deliciously confusing, but it never makes a misstep. Tense, tender, and even funny at times, it’s one of the best films I’ve seen this year.

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