This movie review contains no politics and no Tropic Thunder references. (Except this one.) It may, however, prattle.
So I think I have a real problem with expressing emotion. If my mother is reading this right now she is spitting out her warm spiced milk, or whatever moms drink, and smacking her head in disbelief that I JUST NOW realized this. Well, I didn’t JUST NOW realize it, MOM. OK? I’m just saying, the amount of tears that I shed during the new French “thriller” Tell No One was uncanny. I have trouble crying at funerals or weddings, but this fictional story — a story that honestly isn’t that stirring — causes fat, salty tears to roll uncontrollably down my face all the way home? Something is wrong with me.
Or is it? The answer, my friends, for why a murder mystery can make me emote so passionately lies in all of the other elements of this film besides the story. And those, after all, are what make a film a film, instead of just a plot summary. Writer and directer Guillaume Canet has basically created an example for film teachers everywhere to reference when explaining the power of film. For this plot could have easily been done big-budget style with huge stars, car chases, impressive explosions, a swelling score, and twist endings. It’s got “summer action blockbuster” written all over it: a guy’s wife is murdered years ago and he’s going to get to the bottom of it all, natch. You can just picture Tommy Lee Jones closing in on Mel Gibson on top of the Golden Gate Bridge or something, right before the climax.
Instead, Canet shows us that spectacular filmmaking can make even this feature-length Law and Order episode a thing of beauty and resonance. Just like Wall-E made us forget that we were watching an animated kid flick, Tell No One uses a tonal, lonely score (by Mathieu Chedid) to highlight cinematography that sets out to depict exactly what it is like to be a grieving, desperate human being. Part of me thinks that this is why my heartstrings were pulled taut for over two hours — filmmakers can better express life than life itself can. That is to say, I might read about an amazing feat like Alex’s in the news, but it’s highly unlikely that I will hear the music playing in his head as he internally jumbles remembered images from Margot’s funeral and their wedding years prior. I mean, this is nothing new. Narrative art forms exist for that purpose, to bring life closer to our understanding by presenting it in different ways. But it certainly doesn’t take shape like this every day.
No, sir. This is a film with its heart on its sleeve. Its special effects are startling close ups, terrific acting (wait until Francois Cluzet‘s perpetual mask of incredulity changes in an instant), and a simple flash of light through the trees here and there. Canet does a splendid job proving the old “less is more” adage — so splendid that I can’t think of anything funny to say. Tell No One is fantastic. It’s at Westhampton for at least another week. Now, go get in touch with your emotions, and we can go right back to being awkward and snarky afterwards, I promise.