NOBODY HAS TO KNOW

Reviewed by GREG KING

Directors: Bouli Lanners, Tim Mielants

Stars: Michelle Fairley, Bouli Lanners, Andrew Still, Julian Glover.

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A quiet, restrained but downbeat drama, Nobody Has To Know is the first English language film from prolific Belgian filmmaker Bouli Lanners (Bye Bye Morons, etc), who has a deep affection for Scotland, and has apparently wanted to make a film there for years. 

Th film is set on the rugged windswept island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Middle aged farm worker Phil (played by writer/director Lanners) suffers a stroke and temporarily loses his memory. Once released from hospital he is forbidden to drive, and instead is driven around by Millie McPherson (Michelle Fairley, from Game Of Thrones, etc), the local real estate agent and daughter of taciturn farm owner Angus (Julian Glover). Both Millie and Phil are quiet and reserved and lonely people, and both are characters of few words. There is clearly a spark between the two. She tells Phil that they used to be lovers before his accident, but had to keep their relationship a secret as this was a fairly conservative and deeply religious community. Against his better judgement, the pair become lovers, as she helps him readjust and reacquire his memory. But her lie will eventually catch up with her. How will Phil react to this deception? 

Lanners cowrote the script with Stephane Malandrin (Kill Me Please, etc), and the film deals with themes of loneliness, love, mortality, relationships, isolation, religion, identity, secrets and lies. Lanners co-directed the film with Tim Mielants (Patrick, etc).  Dialogue is sparse, but the silences are well developed. 

The desolate setting and wild rugged terrain is certainly evocative and matches the mood of the material. The austere setting has been nicely shot by Dutch cinematographer Frank van den Eeden (Animals, etc), who captures the sparse, bleak beauty and rugged nature of the settings. This is a fairly grey looking film and there is not a lot of colour, which further enhances the downbeat mood. The score from Pascal Humbert and Sebastien Willemyns adds to the grim mood.  

Both Lanners and Fairley deliver mannered, nuanced performances that capture the inner loneliness of their characters. Lanners has a suitably gruff quality. The thick accents take a bit of getting accustomed to though. 

This is a gentle, slow moving drama about two lonely people who find a connection. The film is handled with subtlety and restraint by the filmmakers, and it will mainly appeal to an art house audience. 

★★☆

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