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“Who Are You?” – Nobody Has To Know (TIFF 2021 Film Review)

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Still Courtesy - Playtime

David Cuevas takes a look at ‘Nobody Has To Know′, as part of FilmHounds' ongoing Toronto International Film Festival coverage.

What's worse than a forgettable movie? Many things really, but the first thing that ironically comes to mind is a forgettable film about amnesia. Every once in a while, we get yet another disposable Jason Bourne flick or a trashy poorly conceived sob-story. The latest film from Bouli Lanners unfortunately falls under the latter category; an amnesia-centric film that fails to resonate with its intimate character drama. Perhaps it's either high expectations or the overbearing familiarity with the core subject matter, yet the principal issue with Nobody Has To Know can be directly linked back to the film's confounding execution.

A perfectly effective and alluring premise is wasted on a film more attentive towards meaningless detail and filler, rather than a straight-faced love story. With a cast of flat and one-dimensional supporting characters providing little to no purpose outside of extending the film's runtime, the aimless narrative frequently becomes a cinematic nuisance. The film is sappy in presentation, where the push-pull dynamics of its core love-story lacks interest due to the absent characterisation. The cast are essentially walking archetypes; Scottish countrymen with barely an ounce of personality. The irony here is that the film had the potential to become an epic love story — where the purposeful withdrawal of information to match the disorienting amnesiac perspective becomes the film's greatest drawback. It's tedious storytelling by design, where twists and narrative gambits never once resonate nor compel. There's very little to gravitate towards on an emotional plane either, where the vast Scottish countryside is by far one of the few items of interest work analysing and dissecting. 

Still Courtesy – Playtime

The Isle of Lewis —the prominent location featured in the film— is nothing but a spiritual prison; an entrapped island that keeps the locals hostage. Mundane pubs and rickety churches preoccupy the local village folk, in an attempt at providing purpose with their daily routine. Lanners' atmospheric portrait of mundanity is an accomplished achievement, yet its correlation with the central narrative fails to cohesively overlap, due to its best efforts being predominantly dedicated towards wasteful material. 

Once again, Nobody Has To Know's lack of dimensionality and purposeful conflict is the greatest offender found within this Amnesia-centric love-story. It's a film that desperately needed to enunciate its core tragedy to further eradicate any semblance of pandering filler. What's left is a sappy melodrama self-contained with familiar antics and a plot riddled with weightless fibs and deceit. Secrets are unearthed, and so are the  painful memories of underwhelming melodrama. In the film's world set on the Isle of Lewis, the average viewer is merely a commoner; wishfully awaiting for the end of Lanners' boorish and sexless romantic escapade.

Still Courtesy – Playtime
Nobody Has To Know screened at this year's as part of the Contemporary World Cinema program. The film is currently seeking international distribution.

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