A strength of French filmmaking is that it emphasizes nuance and allows protracted footage of facial expressions, so viewers may fully empathize with characters. The weakness of French filmmaking is that it emphasizes nuance and allows protracted footage of facial expressions as a means for further existential monotony. A vast majority are the latter, without drama. With the former, you usually get a compelling drama and well-constructed characters. With the latter, you get virtually no drama and lots of modern angst; it is what it means to be “European.”
The new French film “Tell Nobody” (Ne le dit personne) is decidedly not European. It is a text study in the former. It is a brilliant mystery-drama about a man whose wife is killed at a favorite pond soon after they had been lovingly enthralled in naked swimming and lovemaking – only for the man to discover eight years later that his wife may be alive after all. There ensues a complex study of personal courage and dizzy plot-twisting that is astounding and riveting as the protagonist (a sympathetic doctor) goes in search (a la recherche de la femme perdue) of his woman and the true assailants (he had been an initial suspect in the murder investigation). The film is steady paced and full of scintillating action scenes and terrific tete-a-tete intellectual combat. The acting is superb, and the subplots are woven into the main plot to add heft and mystery to an already weighty and mysterious plot.
We as an audience find ourselves surprised by what the formerly nice doctor will do to find his woman and unravel the mystery, all the while pursued by the authorities. This is “The Fugitive” without clichés and the overwrought acting of Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones and without the simplistic plot – though I stil enjoy “The Fugitive.”
My only complaint about this film is that the clues we are given are not quite enough for us to unravel the mystery just before the film's denouement, but perhaps I wasn’t paying close enough attention. Really, I didn’t care. The ending made sense, and it was the kind of satisfying ending that made me want to eventually buy this movie and keep it in my short catalogue of classics.
(“Ne Le Dit Personne” is subtitled.)