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TELL NO ONE (Ne le dis à personne) (director/writer: Guillaume Canet; screenwriters: Philippe Lefebvre/based on the novel by Harlan Coben; cinematographer: Christophe Offenstein; editor: Hervé de Luze; music: -M-; cast: François Cluzet (Alexandre Beck), Marie-Josée Croze (Margot Beck), André Dussollier (Jacques Laurentin), Kristin Scott Thomas (Hélène Perkins), François Berléand (Eric Levkowitch), Nathalie Baye (Elysabeth Feldman), Jean Rochefort (Gilbert Neuville), Marina Hands (Anne Beck), Gilles Lellouche (Bruno), Guillaume Canet (Philippe Neuville), Jean Rochefort (Gilbert Neuville), Olivier Marchal (Bernard Valenti), Jalil Lespert (Yaël Gonzales), Eric Naggar (Pierre Ferrault), Philippe Canet (François Beck), Martine Chevallier (Martine Laurentin), Florence Thomassin (Charlotte Bertaud), Philippe Lefebvre (Lieutenant Philippe Meynard); Runtime: 125; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Alain Attal; Music Box Films; 2006-France-in French with English subtitles)
“Feels like an episode of The Fugitive turned more darkly into The Big Sleep.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Guillaume Canet (“My Idol”) is a 33-year-old actor-turned director, whose film won four Cesars, the French Oscars, and was nominated for five more as well as meeting with a box office success all across Europe. It’s a big-budget sad love story and pulp thriller that feels like an episode of The Fugitive turned more darkly into The Big Sleep. Cowriters Philippe Lefebvre and Canet adapt US writer Harlan Coben’s 2001 best-selling thriller and take it for a long bumpy ride with many twists that keep you hanging on with suspense until the last twist is played out. Not all of it works. There are too many coincidences to be believed and some farfetched events that seem contrived and overbaked, such as a nasty street-gang leader (Gilles Lellouche) becoming the doctor’s protector who gets him out of an awful jam; a caricature of a depraved, influential and smarmy aristocratic billionaire equestrian-lover politician (Jean Rochefort), who is so blatantly protective of his perverted equestrian champion son (Guillaume Canet, the director); and the almost unbelievable portrayal of a bourgeois doctor morphing into an action figure overnight as he outraces the police to escape their dragnet in the part of Paris unseen by the tourists and also must be like the hero in the Bourne-Supremacy to flee from dangerous shadowy assailants who are hired by a mysterious client to track him down.

When compassionate pediatrician Alex Beck (François Cluzet) and his beloved wife Margot (Marie-Josée Croze) were skinny-dipping in isolated Lake Charmaine eight years ago, a rural area outside of Paris where they used to swim as children, she gets abducted and brutally murdered while he is knocked unconscious and doesn’t come out of a coma until three days later. Eight years later Alex is still haunted by that incident and is still grieving for his dead wife, and there’s no closure even though a serial killer was convicted of the crime. When suddenly two male corpses long buried are discovered near the scene of the crime and they have police records, the cops decide to reopen the case and cast suspicion on the doctor–someone they always suspected. A fastidious police captain from Versailles, Eric Levkowitch (François Berléand), heads the investigation and soon a labyrinth of dark events unfold that point the way to Alex being a killer. But things keep taking bizarre turns, as many strange clues and suspects keeping popping up the more the investigation continues.

While the police do their investigation, the innocent Alex on the eight anniversary of his wife’s death receives a mysterious e-mail that hints that Margot is still alive and with a message saying “Tell no one” because people will be watching. Now believing his wife may not be dead, it leads Alex on a long and chilling investigation on his own that takes him first to visit and question his wife’s retired police inspector father (André Dussollier), who identified his daughter’s body at the crime scene. Soon a series of complexities unfold that question everything that took place that fatal day, but the doctor is hindered in his investigation because he’s being pursued by both a shadowy group monitoring his actions and the suspicious police wanting to charge him with the murder of a second woman who was killed by a gun his family owned.

It’s all baffling, as clues are slowly doled out and thereby we are kept in the dark for most of the film until all the mysteries are cleared up in the third act. None of it has the wit or sophistication of a Chabrol thriller, but François Cluzet gives a winning performance in the same vein as Cary Grant in North By Northwest or Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo and thereby his pleasing performance makes us more forgiving of how unnecessarily intricate, confusing and redundant it all was. The film becomes more enjoyable the more you can get past all the ugly violence and the heavy-going coincidences, and thereby see that it’s a tender love story with exciting chases and a pulsating race to the finish to find out who is the real villain and what really happened to Margot.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”