There are tons of American film adaptations of foreign movies, books and TV shows, but it’s relatively rare for filmmakers from other countries to take their inspiration from American source material. Tell No One, a French thriller based on the novel by American Harlan Coben, demonstrates how much of a shame that is, since co-screenwriter and director Canet turns in a far more nuanced and emotionally satisfying film than one would expect from a Hollywood take on this material.
Sophisticated as the film may be, the story is, at its heart, a pretty basic thriller. On the eighth anniversary of his wife’s murder near a secluded lake, pediatrician Alex Beck (Cluzet) receives an anonymous e-mail with a seemingly present-day video of her getting off an escalator, along with the titular admonition. At the same time, the discovery of two long-dead bodies near the lake reopens the murder investigation, and causes the police to start asking Alex questions that went unanswered the first time around—questions that point to him, rather than the serial killer who was convicted, as his wife’s murderer.
From there, it’s a well-paced journey through knotty conspiracies and ever-shifting alliances, executed with great style and grace by Canet, a popular French actor (he plays a small part in the film) directing his second feature. An early montage juxtaposing Alex’s emotional devastation with both his wedding and his wife’s funeral is especially haunting, and whenever the story seems a little too pedestrian, Canet manages to jazz it up with scenes like a stellar foot-chase sequence around the middle of the movie. Cluzet also gives an excellent performance as the man who never truly got over his wife’s death and is now being forced to relive every emotional response to it, and he anchors the story in real feeling while it’s grinding through the thriller gears.
Those gears include the requisite scene in which someone explains in great detail what really happened, an explanation that turns out to be disappointingly mundane and saddled with a plot hole or two. The final scene that follows, though, is magical and heartbreaking, the kind of beautiful understatement that can make a genre piece like this into something more.