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Ne le dis à personne (Tell No One)

Film Four Stars

Ne le dis à personne (Tell No One) is a French film directed by Guillaume Canet who, together with Philippe Lefebvre, adapted the story from the novel by Harlan Coben.

The story opens eight years previously, where a group of friends are enjoying a weekend in the country. Margot and Alexandre Beck leave to visit their childhood haunt at a local lake, and swim to the centre. After a short argument Margot heads back to the car, and after a few moments Alexandre hears a shout.

He races towards the shore, and as he mounts the pier he's struck in the head and falls into the water unconscious.

Eight years later we find that Margot had been murdered and Alexandre had been in a coma, and had been a suspect until her murder was associated with a serial killer. Since then he's buried himself in his job as a paediatrician and never full remembered the events of that day.

Then two bodies are found near the site which reopens the case and the police interest in Alexandre. Meanwhile he begins to receive emails with some strange webcam footage, and the warning that he's being watched.

TellNoOne.jpgThis film is a very strong thriller and has been superbly written, whether that is helped by a powerful novel I don't know, but I'm sure to be adding this to my reading list. It concentrates on the characters and the development of the story, and is suitably off the standard Hollywood track to divert you from second guessing it.

I hate it when I start anticipating the story of a film, and in most cases it's unintentional but is just so glaringly obvious that you can't do anything but see the plot developments and twists before they happen. This happens so often with Hollywood thrillers.

However something I have come to appreciate about French cinema, in my limited experience, is how stories are told. There's often a slow and deliberate pace to them, and the scripts are heavy on characterisation and natural development. All these characteristics are present with and are responsible for a strong and utterly engaging thriller.

There's also a great style to the filming. There's nothing too flashy with effects, shots, or even framing. It feels as though the camera work is at a minimum to concentrate on the characters, their dialogue and the action. You're never distracted by anything rather than what's going on in the screen.

With both the style and the script, the characters come through easily, and provide an excellent showcase for some subtle and natural character acting.

It stars a whole host of French talent, as well as one very well known British actress, François Cluzet, Marie-Josée Croze, Kristin Scott Thomas, François Berléand, Nathalie Baye, Jean Rochefort, Marina Hands, and so on. If you don't know some of these names, the chances are that you'll recognise some of the faces, I know I did.

All the performances are good, but Cluzet, Scott Thomas and Berléand gave the most natural and emotive performances. They are so believable, and you can see much less controlled and much freer performances.

There are some key scenes that really show off the difference in acting styles, where there's much more emotion conveyed through facial expressions, movement, gestures and even silence. This contradicts the typical Hollywood, and to be fair Western cinema style of relying on having characters comment on and express feelings and intentions through voice.

What we get is that natural, more realistic style, where the audience interpret between the spoken word through visual clues. This is something that happens everyday in your own conversations and so it connects more with your own way of communication rather than the cinematic way of conversation, i.e. Spelling everything out for the audience.

Another stylistic aspect I particularly liked was in the filming. Apart from it following the film in a slow and deliberate pace, and never overpowering the story, it shows the passage of time in an efficient and interesting way.

By picking a few moments of the journey or story sequence and clipping them down it pulls out the story and gives the impression of remembering past events.

I'm not sure if I've managed to explain that properly, but you know when you remember past events you won't replay the whole thing in your head, you'll more than likely have visual glimpses of moments throughout the event.

For example when I remember a night out, where alcohol has been involved, I'll remember short bursts of events throughout the evening.

That's very much how this style feels, and it works really well. Again it's never overpowering of the story, and it is even used during a drunken scene as Alexandre remembers his past and memories get confused together.

The music in the film is also good, although there are a few times where the choice of song initially seems confusing, it soon fits in well with the scene, and there are also a couple of times where the music seems to quickly cut. Yet overall the music choices are strong and varied.

I really enjoyed this film. It is a strong tension builder and has you surprised and on edge for a few key moments with a slowly developing tension from the beginning.

That said, the ending isn't a huge twist that shocks you, but it is a bit of a surprise. It is nicely handled and there are elements left untouched, but I feel there could have been a few extra scenes here that might have given the audience a little more.

Of course that could just be me left feeling like I wanted more, which is a great feeling to be left with after any film.

Cluzet is very good, and I really enjoyed his performance, although a few times I couldn't stop my mind thinking of Dustin Hoffman, his acting didn't suffer any for it though!

I would recommend this film. It is released in the UK on June 15th, check here for other countries, and it is English subtitled - the best way to watch foreign films.

This is a great alternative to the standard Hollywood thriller, and it beats it on many counts.

UK IMDB Film details



Not just me then .. Saw this yesterday, was thinking, Dustin Hoffman meets Adrian Brody, leaning more to the Dustin side.

Did thoroughly enjoy it.


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