Based on an internationally best-selling novel by Harlan Coben and directed by Frenchman Guillaume Canet, the story follows Alexandre Beck (popular French actor François Cluzet), a doctor who goes about his practice while carrying a torch for his wife, Margot (Marie Josée-Croze), who was murdered eight years prior. The specific circumstances of her death are still unresolved, and Beck was a suspect in the original investigation. Beck hasn’t quite moved on with his life, still experiencing nightmares and other alienating fallout from the loss.
Then two bodies are discovered in the same area in which Margot was killed, dated to around the same time as her murder. The land happens to belong to Beck, and the police come around asking questions again. To top things off, Beck gets a strange e-mail with a video attachment containing grainy footage of a woman who could be his dead Margot. While he waits for a promised follow-up message, Beck starts asking questions of his father-in-law Jacques (André Dussollier) and Margot’s best friend Charlotte (Florence Thomassin), among others. None of them like it, and wish Beck would stop dredging up the past and move on.
Unfortunately, there are certain shady individuals who have their own agenda, and between them and the police, certain facts will come to light, revealing what happened to Margot and Alexandre once and for all.
While it has a certain romantic fever-dream feel at times, at heart Tell No One is a mystery/thriller. It’s never quite certain whose side anyone is on, or what they know compared to what they’re willing to tell. Beck just pulls the unraveling thread, using what resources he has while he tries to figure out what’s going on.
What really makes Tell No One work is the pacing, which is spot-on, and the likability of the main characters, especially Beck. There are necessarily some two-dimensional characters and even some stock ones, like Eric Levkowitch (François Berléand), the Dispassionate, Wise Detective. But rather than bogging down the proceedings, these less important characters are shrewdly used to advance the plot and reveal character in Beck and the other more important players.
There are a couple of drawbacks in the soundtrack and the overall believability of the story, especially toward the end. While it’s nice to hear some familiar voices like Jeff Buckley, Otis Redding and good old Bono in a foreign film, the song choices come off as a bit obvious at times. One montage, operating under U2’s “With or Without You,” especially leaves a hollow, teen-angst aftertaste, when in fact, the character is dealing with more substantial issues of mortality and loss.
Overall, however, the weak spots are far and few between and as far as believability, the ratcheting tension distracts from any loss in suspension of disbelief enough to be more or less negligible.