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Complete Unknown

Coming Soon

Complete Unknown could have been so many things, namely an intriguing film with suspense, mystery, and twists that leave the viewer two steps behind, but instead it just…..was. Nothing really happened, and I don’t mean in a profound way in which a series of nothing moments, lead to a big conclusion. Nor do I mean the intricately simple moments of life that are beautifully captured in the style of Richard Linklater. I mean we started with a juicy premise and then it just fizzled.

Let’s start from what we know:

A beautiful woman named Alice who is new to the city of NYC (Rachel Weisz, The Light Between Oceans (2016)) enters the life of one Clyde (Michael Chernus, Mistress America (2015)), after witty banter and general flirting; Clyde invites Alice to a special birthday dinner for his friend Tom (Michael Shannon, Midnight Special (2016)). Tom is a stickler for rules, a married man, Clyde’s co-worker and closest friend. Alice is a researcher, just returning from the far away lands of Tasmania. At the party, Tom immediately recognizes Alice as a young woman he knew long ago, a then girl at the time, who just up and disappeared from his and everyone else’s life. As the evening wears on, the other guests who were initially charmed by Alice and her “cool girl” status become somewhat hesitant to believe all of her life tales. She was a magician’s assistant in China, a researcher in Tasmania, a student in Mexico, and at one point she was living with dreads in Portland, Oregon (not really sure what that flashback was about).

When Alice separates herself from the group, Tom tracks her down and they talk.
Now here’s where things could have (should have?) gone awry. Perhaps because this plot has been done before, I thought Alice would try to assume the wife’s role in a Single White Female sort of way. I thought perhaps she would scream about all the pain that had been inflicted upon her in her original life. I thought something would happen. I thought wrong. It could be that this film is meant for more refined tastes, someone who appreciates the art of subtlety. I am obviously not that person.

As the duo bop around the city, they cross paths with a couple (played by Kathy Bates and Danny Glover). Their encounter in no way furthers the plot, but I’m gathering that that is the theme. The abstract questions of “don’t we all reinvent ourselves to some degree throughout life?” and “don’t you feel bad taking advantage of people who believe you?” are thrown around. Alice divulges that she likes shedding these personas to begin a new life and that’s basically it. There really aren’t spoilers in this Complete Unknown review because there isn’t one thing that truly happens. I suppose some might find it refreshing to not have a completely impractical storyline unfold while talented actors are forced to overact, aka most of today’s popular movies. The whole is pretty relaxed. Not great and not awful, it just is.

Complete Unknown is streaming now on the following services:
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