'Tell No One' a Twisty Tale, and Worth Untangling The French box-office smash is overstuffed with conspiracies, but beautifully constructed and thematically rich — so it remains a pleasure even as the story becomes increasingly implausible.
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'Tell No One' a Twisty Tale, and Worth Untangling

Pediatrician Alexandre Beck (François Cluzet) finds himself in the middle of a murder intrigue that involves his wife. Jean-Claude Lother/Music Box Films hide caption

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Jean-Claude Lother/Music Box Films

Pediatrician Alexandre Beck (François Cluzet) finds himself in the middle of a murder intrigue that involves his wife.

Jean-Claude Lother/Music Box Films

Tell No One

  • Director: Guillaume Canet
  • Genre: Drama
  • Running Time: 125 minutes

Not rated.

As the situation gets more complex, Alex relies on Helene (Kristin Scott Thomas) as his primary confidante. Jean-Claude Lother/Music Box Films hide caption

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Jean-Claude Lother/Music Box Films

As the situation gets more complex, Alex relies on Helene (Kristin Scott Thomas) as his primary confidante.

Jean-Claude Lother/Music Box Films

Eight years ago, pediatrician Alex Beck (Francois Cluzet) awoke from a three-day coma to learn that his wife, Margot (Marie-Josee Croze), had been murdered — and that the local cops didn't entirely buy his account of what happened.

Viewers may react with similar distrust to the plot of Tell No One, a French box-office smash that's overstuffed with conspiracies. Yet the movie is beautifully constructed and thematically rich, and thus remains a pleasure even as the story becomes increasingly implausible.

It's adapted from a mystery by American novelist Harlan Coben, but Guillaume Canet's film seems utterly French, as well as entirely contemporary. It travels from the aristocratic world of equestrian competition — Alex's sister is a show jumper — to the working-class suburbs of Paris, where Alex has connections, thanks to his work with immigrants' kids.

Featuring some of France's top stars, the cast includes Nathalie Baye (as Alex's hard-boiled attorney), Jean Rochefort (as an imperious baron of the horsy set) and Paris-based Brit Kristin Scott Thomas (as Helene, Alex's close friend and his sister's lover).

For Alex, troubling flashbacks return when two bodies are found near the site of Margot's death. While the police consider reopening the case, Alex receives cryptic messages indicating that there never was a homicide: Margot is still alive, but afraid to reveal herself. "Tell no one," she warns Alex in an e-mail. "They're watching."

They are indeed. Soon Alex is framed for another murder, and is literally on the run, chased by police officers across Paris' beltway and into the sort of neighborhood where fugitives have higher status than cops.

That's the sort of detail that makes the movie consistently interesting. Brief scenes reveal a wealth of information, both narrative and sociological, and no shot is wasted.

A quick glimpse of a waitress's derriere reveals Helene's inclinations; a seemingly offhand sequence in which Alex leaves his dog outside an Internet cafe turns out to be essential.

Indeed, one fruitful way to watch the film is by paying close attention to dogs and kids. Tell No One is about filial as much as erotic love, and for all Alex's longing for Margot, the story really turns on what people are prepared to do to protect children.