Complete Unknown: A diffuse Character Study


Complete Unknown

Fabian Brims, Egalitarian Staff Writer

With some of the best character-actors and an interesting premise, I was really looking forward to see the movie ‘Complete Unknown’, but in the end it couldn’t uphold the high expectations.

15 Years after she suddenly disappeared, Alice (Rachel Weisz) comes back into Tom’s (Michael Shannon) life. In the title sequence, we see that she lived several different lives in the meantime, from an alternative hippie to an E.R. nurse. She invents a complete new identity every time so that when she talks to someone, it’s never clear if she is telling the truth. This way of life after many years results in her feeling lost in her labyrinth of lies. She comes back to Tom, because after her father’s death he’s the only remaining person from her original life. Meanwhile Tom has married and even though he’s not happy in his job, he hesitates to give it up to follow his wife’s career opportunity across the country. With Alice’s return, he has to face his and Alice’s shared past and he reevaluates what is really important in his life and for his future.

In the beginning, the movie is really suspenseful when Alice and Tom play cat and mouse after they bump into each other at a dinner party for Tom’s birthday, but soon the story gets lost and except for Tom’s conflict, there’s nothing that drives the story forward. For a 10-minute short movie it would be enough plot, but the movie felt stretched and none of the supporting characters (Kathy Bates, Danny Glover) was important for the story. While the dialogue probably would have worked well on stage, it felt often displaced and unnatural.

Joshua Marston was in the director’s chair for this movie.  He also wrote the script together with Julian Sheppard. Marston is well known for his screenplay for ‘Maria Full of Grace’ and he also directed episodes for ‘The Newsroom’ and ‘Six Feet Under’ on HBO. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to adapt his TV-direction to the big screen. In addition to the lack of plot, the movie was terribly paced, and the cinematography couldn’t offer any distraction from the boredom on screen.

The only positive aspect of this movie is the leading actress Rachel Weisz. Her character is the only one in the screenplay that isn’t one-dimensional, and she portrays Alice in a very empathetic and believable manner. Being constantly on the run and having no real friends or other relations left a mark on her and she is really shy and not able to socialize, so she invents complete personas and biographies to fit into her environment. A character like hers offers endless possibilities, and unlike for example the Dissociative identity disorder, her mental issue is not overused in films and books.

This could have been a good drama or a thriller, but unfortunately the filmmakers couldn’t decide which way they wanted to go and meanwhile completely forgot to give this film any highlights or edginess; they didn’t fulfill the promises made in the first 20 minutes of the movie. Despite an amazing Rachel Weisz, this is a pretty bloodless movie where not much happens. Good thing I watched it so you don’t have to!



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