Lady in the Lake

sarris2 Lady in the LakeTell No One (Ne Le Dis à Personne)
Running time 125 minutes
Written by
Guillaume Canet and Philippe Lefebvre
Directed by Guillaume Canet
Starring Francois Cluzet, Marie-Josée Croze, Marina Hands, Kristin Scott Thomas

Guillaume Canet’s Tell No One (Ne Le Dis à Personne), from a screenplay (in French with English subtitles) by Mr. Canet and Philippe Lefebvre, is based on a best-selling American mystery novel—Tell No One. Whereas the book was set in New York, the film was shot in Paris with many changes from its literary source. In its present form, it is as much a love story as a murder mystery, with more than its share of Hitchcockian quirks and surprises.

Francois Cluzet plays pediatrician Alexandre Beck, who has a prestigious hospital practice and a happy marriage to Marie-Josée Croze’s Margot, his childhood sweetheart. After a troubled dinner party with their two families, Alexandre and Margot drive off to a secluded lakeside trysting location where they swim and make love in the moonlight. But after a brief argument over Alexandre’s sister, Anne (Marina Hands), Margot, irritated by her husband’s attitude, jumps into the water and swims to the opposite shore. After a short interval, Alexandre hears his wife scream for help, and swims after her only to be rendered unconscious by a blow that sends him back into the lake and into a coma.

Eight years pass, and Alexandre is still grieving for Margot, who was pronounced dead by the coroner after her body was identified by her father, Jacques Laurentin (André Dussollier), while Alexandre was still comatose. A series of puzzling sightings of Margot leads Alexandre to suspect that she is still alive, but why does this possibly faux Margot keep sending him messages urging him to “tell no one”?

Meanwhile, the police chief, Eric Levkowitch (Francois Berléand), has decided to reopen the investigation of Margot’s murder, with Alexandre as the main suspect because of the large life insurance policy on which Alexandre collected. To make matters more complicated, a mysteriously thuggish man-woman team tortures and kills Margot’s best friend, Charlotte Bertaud (Florence Thomassin), after she is unable to tell them where they can find Margot. For his part, Alexandre is in full flight across Paris both to escape the police and to locate Margot, the one great love of his life. The police are now hunting Alexandre, not only for the presumed murder of Margot, but also for the more recent murder of Charlotte, for which he has been framed by the mysterious and malignant man-woman duo.

As Levkowitch and Alexandre race to tie up all the loose ends of this saga of crime and obsessive love, Mr. Canet propels the extended chase across the less touristy sections of Paris, without resorting to ghosts or ghouls in the prescribed juvenile manner of too many current noirish spectacles.

Veteran performers Nathalie Baye, Kristin Scott Thomas and Jean Rochefort lend their marvelously matured talents to three crucial characterizations in this intricate narrative jigsaw puzzle. I haven’t enjoyed so much pleasurably intrigue-laden suspense in ages, and it is charismatically acted, too.

asarris@observer.com