A mild-mannered pediatrician, whose beloved wife was murdered and cremated eight years ago, finds himself suspected of compound foul play in the suspenseful “Tell No One.” Though almost laughably intricate in its plotting, this thoroughly Gallic adaptation of Harlan Coben’s novel — 6 million copies sold in 27 languages — reps an entertaining sophomore outing for thesp-turned-director Guillaume Canet that looks like a candidate for offshore playdates. Featuring a hearty chunk of the French-speaking talent pool, with thesps all doing their bit to keep things moving, this Nov. 1 release is doing just dandy in Gaul.
Margot (Marie-Josee Croze), the dead wife of Dr. Alex Beck (Francois Cluzet), appears to be waiting for him. Her murder at the secluded lake where she and Alex had bathed as kids was attributed to a serial killer, whose M.O. included draping female cadavers with dead animals.
To all appearances, Alex is a nice guy who is great with children, not bad with adults and misses his late wife terribly. Then, on the eighth anniversary of Margot’s murder, two unexpected events intrude on his orderly existence.
Two bodies are dug up, along with the key to a safe containing incriminating photos and a baseball bat with what may be Alex’s blood on it.
Also, Alex receives an unnerving e-mail, whose subject heading is one only his dead wife could possibly know. The message instructs Alex to “Tell no one. We’re being watched.” It leads to a recent video of a woman who looks exactly like Margot, alive and apparently well.
Meanwhile, the police are closing in, and some extremely bad guys and a sadistic gal are making Alex’s close friends sorry they know him. Alex has to stay out of jail — or the morgue — long enough to rendezvous with the woman he hopes is Margot.
Wealthy lesbian Helene (Kristin Scott Thomas), who lives with Alex’s younger sister, champion horsewoman Anne (Marina Hands), is paying a top lawyer, Elisabeth Feldman (Nathalie Baye), to handle Alex’s case. When Feldman tips Alex that he’ll soon be arrested, he jumps out a hospital window and straight into a breathless set piece that has him darting across deadly traffic on the highway that rings Paris. As wronged-man-on-the-run sequences go, it’s thrilling.
Justice is finally served, with a side order of irony. The late-arriving explanation holds water but could turn out to have a few minor leaks if one inspected it too closely.
Cluzet makes Alex’s unasked-for adventures seem plausible, Francois Berleand does honor to the gumshoe slot, and Andre Dussollier fills the bill as Margot’s gruffly grieving dad. Gilles Lellouche shines as a shrewd toughie on the wrong side of the law, Jean Rochefort is suitably imperious as a local pol with an interest in equestrianism, and Canet casts himself as a patrician creep. Femmes are all strong, independent, attractive and know more than they’ll willingly let on.
Canet shows a fondness for tracking shots, dollies in and out, and location work in and around Paris — all of which confirm the directorial assurance he showed in “Whatever You Say” (2002). Clockwork pacing flags a bit at the end, but in no way detracts from a sharp, efficient package.