It was with great disappointment and great happiness that I asked a friend tonight, “Did Tell No One come out of nowhere?” Guillaume Canet’s thriller was released in the U.S. this past weekend, earning rave reviews and strong box office. Yet it never played any major film festivals (not even Cannes or Toronto), and was released in America by upstart company Music Box (kudos to them, by the way). It’s sad, but true, that by American arthouse standards, this sends the message that the film must not be up to snuff. Apparently, though, the film was a hit in its native France, earning several Cesar Awards in 2007. I must admit that I’d never heard of the film, until catching a trailer for it at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema, and that’s where I saw it on Sunday evening.
Tell No One turns out to be a complex and compelling thriller. It’s a smart whodunit, that plays like a French remake of The Fugitive, and has true crossover potential to entice American audiences that may not normally flock to French cinema. It’s also the latest in a splendidly long line of French domestic thrillers (Roman de gare, Cache, With a Friend Like Harry, Read My Lips, Lemming, The Beat That My Heart Skipped, etc.) making an impression in American theaters.
Guillaume Canet, who is also a prolific actor some may remember from Danny Boyle’s The Beach, lets the complicated narrative get away from him at some points but the journey is well worth it. Tell No One is about a caring pediatrician who, still mourning her loss eight years later, is haunted by an e-mail supposedly composed by his dead wife. Before too long, he’s a prime suspect for her murder, and soon the murder of others. The tangled web of events and characters create an entertaining ride. No more, no less. There are no real issues of class, race, or social standing (unlike many of the aforementioned French exports). Tell No One is a pulp ride. Pure and not-so-simple.