by HELEN GEIB
The French thriller Tell No One, adapted from a novel by American mystery writer Harlan Coben, proved one of the smash hits of the American arthouse circuit in 2008. It’s easy to understand why. The film is a happy marriage of well-crafted suspense and compelling emotional drama. At the risk of sounding like an advertising tag-line: Tell No One is an intelligent and entertaining movie guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.
The hero of the piece is middle-aged pediatrician Alex. Alex still mourns his wife Margot, murdered eight years before by a serial killer. Alex and Margot had been completely devoted to each other from the time they became childhood sweethearts to the day of Margot’s death; their relationship is established in a prologue and short, evocative flashbacks. Present-day events are set in motion first by the discovery of two bodies at the lake where Margot was kidnapped before her murder, and second by Alex’s receipt of a cryptic email instructing him to visit a webcam at a certain time. The email enjoins him to “tell no one” because he’s being watched. What he sees on his screen is a woman who may be Margot.
The plot is delightfully complicated. The film demands close attention to follow all the twists and turns, and rewards it with the satisfaction of seeing all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place at the conclusion. There are a few scenes where the audience is allowed to see something that Alex cannot – the doubts of the detective in charge about Alex’s apparent guilt, the activities of the shadowy group that is indeed watching him – but for the most part, and on the essential points, the viewer knows only as much as he does. The filmmakers effectively encourage the audience to identify with Alex in his increasingly desperate efforts to uncover the truth.
The film also generates a ready sympathy for Alex. His motivation makes him an unusual protagonist for a thriller. He is not seeking revenge, is not a professional detective investigating a crime, is not even fighting to stay alive. Even when his life is placed in danger as he closes in on the solution to the mystery, his principal motive remains his aching desire to be reunited with Margot. Alex and Margot’s love story invests the film with real dramatic power.
The limited DVD features are deleted scenes and outtakes.