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nobody has to know

★★★★

starring: michelle fairley, bouli lanners, cal macaninch, and julian glover

 

REVIEWER: nick tonkin

Phil, a robust middle-aged man suffers a stroke, causing him to lose his memory. Millie, who takes care of him, tells him falsely that they were secretly in love before his accident.

Nobody Has to Know is the new feature by Belgian writer, director and actor Bouli Lanners, set on a bleak and remote Scottish Island. In Nobody we follow Philippe (Lanners), a middle aged farmhand recovering from a recent stroke which cost him his memory. Millie (Michelle Fairley), the adult daughter of his elderly employer, cares for Philippe as he re-enters his life, but also takes the step to plant the idea that they were secretly in love prior to his memory loss.

 

Nobody Has to Know is a sparse and deliberately slow film. It carefully explores the surreal idea of Philippe stepping into the life he's been told is his, only to feel like it doesn't quite fit. It shows us how Millie feels when she interacts with Philippe, leading to the lie she tells, and whether she should still feel guilty after he says he wants to be with her without hiding.

 

Lanners and co-writer Stéphane Malandrin rather deftly avoid their story slipping into comfortable melodrama here by challenging their leads with truth and it’s consequence, allowing for Fairley (famed for her Games of Thrones role as Catelyn Stark) to shine as Millie when things get difficult.

 

The setting is striking, with a bleak beauty that brings a clear element of character to Nobody Has to Know. The film doesn’t much explore the past of Millie or Philippe, their motivations are to be inferred from their actions and their place they occupy in this windswept land. Millie has a place in this land, her father’s world. Philippe found himself there, and the land helps him gain some sense of self while wearing the life of his forgotten self.

 

Nobody Has to Know is a careful, yet affecting drama exploring through a small but novel story how love can bring meaning to life and inspire forgiveness.

★★★★