Such a frustrating disappointment
Highly Overrated But Still Good
Exactly the movie you think it is, but not the movie you want it to be.
One of the most extraordinary films you will see this year. Take that as you want.
I watched this movie because it billed itself as a "mystery". The only mystery is how anyone could find it entertaining. It was about as enticing as a toenail clipping. I agree with other reviews in that this movie featured very bland and self absorbed characters, not the least of which was the female lead. Also, talk about implausible. The woman doesn't look much over thirty yet she has had all these jobs and experiences, many of which would take years of schooling. Sad and pathetic and yes infuriatingly stupid.
Saw this at the Leiden International Film Festival (LIFF) in 2016. After all, the story developed much better than expected. Initially, after half an hour running time, I was asking myself whether the story was going anywhere. Birthday parties can be watched in many different movies, and it seemed to be the center stage of this story. After having done with all the "How are you?? OK" exchanges, something should happen there, a turning point after which the story was expected to take off. Some extra patience was needed, however.It all went in a completely different direction after another 10 minutes. I must say that it went very well from that moment on, thought provoking even. How tempted one can be to break completely with the past, assuming a different identity, leaving all family members and friends behind without telling them about your whereabouts, even not telling them that you still live. And Alice has done just that several times, and she was prepared to repeat it at this very moment.That being said, the ending did not satisfy me completely. It left me with many questions about practical things, like passports and credit cards, and how to earn a living without a solid background and without a proved education. But maybe I'm nitpicking now on details. The main idea deserves far better ratings than the ones I saw on IMDb and such. I'm glad that the IMDb User Reviews are controversial, ranging from very low to very high, proving that the movie touched a nerve and that it was not easy to let it go afterwards.Homework for the reader/viewer: Was Alice's re-connecting with Tom a cry for help, an attempt to fall back on someone she expected to really know her, independent of the many identities she assumed in the meantime?? She took some trouble to indirectly re-connect, while a direct approach could have worked too, so why this convoluted way to meet him again??All in all, good casting and acting, and the rest is mostly left as an exercise for the viewer. Would you ever have wanted to start with a proverbial clean slate?? And would you have taken for granted that you lose all friends and relatives in the process, since only a clear cut will work out as desired. Let alone the practical and down-to-earth problems, like having no verifiable CV and no proof of the schools you attended. And what about opening a bank account or applying for a credit card?? The devil is in the details with such an undertaking. Don't expect that this movie will teach you how it is done, however, as it will only leave you with open questions. Nevertheless, an interesting premise. The slow start is a negative point, as explained above, and it will drive away many home viewers who don't want to wait 40 minutes for a clear plot to emerge.
Plot and ScriptWhat if you could become a whole new person and often? Would you know who you are? Does our job define who we are? Or does one have to introspect often to figure out the reason fro their existence?These are some questions Complete Unknown tries to answer. Alice played by Rachel Weisz enters into Tom's (Michael Shannon) life by what seems like stalking but it is clarified that they were lovers – 15 years ago. Lovers who fell apart because Tom had a path in life to tread and Alice wanted no such thing.Alice took off without telling a soul leading her parents and Tom to think she was dead. She underwent complete transformations to become different people in different countries – biologist, nurse, magician's assistant and many more.But the lack of permanency is what brings her back to Tom whose definition of static is what is driving a wedge in his life and between him and his wife. What happens when Tom and Alice meet at his birthday party surrounded by his friends who think Alice is an enigma? Do they buy her tales of taking off or think she is a pathological liar?This is movie is a one-night tale and has a solid premise which unfortunately doesn't hold until the end.Characterization and Acting (C&A)Acting by Weisz and Shannon was very strong – we see both their points of view of who they think they are and self-imposed limitations. There are cameos by Kathy Bates and Danny Glover who are great but I don't know why they were important. Tom's friends were OK too but didn't really build into these characters. That's one reason where it fell short in this department – I didn't care enough for all the characters.Sounds and Effects (S&E)The background score was effective and the scenes which take you back to what Alice was at a given point in time were extremely 'tidy'.Cinematography and Visuals (C&V)I think this was one of the stronger aspects of the film. The movie looks great and the visuals are awesome in most settings.Direction and Overall (D &O)Amazon studios and Joshua Marston tried to make a great movie with an okay'ish script and that is what led this movie to not be great! There were many loopholes in the script and the story and characters never really develop fully.So here are my scores:Plot and Script (P&S)- 1.0Characterization and Acting (C&A) – 1.5Sounds and Effects (S&E) – 1.0Cinematography and Visuals (C&V) – 1.5Direction and Overall (D &O) – 1.0Overall Score – 6.0 out of 10One time watch but forgettable.
Modern/ classic. Elegant/ mondiale. Pinteresque-Aeschylean. Open patiently to it. Accept, observe/ welcome. As you would a brilliantly-acted theater piece. Permit the brilliant actors Weisz, Shannon, et alia to perform; let the plot sequence. As you do, listen to the voicings/ dialogue-phasing -- as you might frogs' singing during a night in a Tasmania. Value the gestures and changes and blockings and incidents: Jenny's swimming, speeches about frog-song study; Tom's futile emailing and efficient cake- cleaving. Understand Tom's wife's jewelry-making and California dreaming -- for both of them; Kathy Bates's and Danny Glover's Magic Theater can't walk-goat meat playlet; the Jenny-Tom embrace -- letting go/ don't let go -- at the end of their Walpurgisnacht eclaircissement.It's a play of actors with character and incident, dialogue and beat, feeling and thought: unadorned, decorous, ordinary -- a birthday party -- and fantastic. That takes place at quiet stainless-steel space- age Manhattan biotechs, and in a oak-panelled apartment, or on safe streets. But with a dead-grey goat's severed soup head in the quick middle of it.