Ever wanted to run away and start fresh as a totally new person with seemingly no past? Well Joshua Marston tackles this question in his new film Complete Unknown.
Complete Unknown is directed and co-written by Joshua Marston and Julian Sheppard. We’re first introduced to Rachel Weisz’s character who goes by one name at the beginning of the film only to introduce herself as Alice later on. The film essentially begins by showing several years of Alice’s life but after meeting Tom, Michael Shannon’s character, the rest of the film follows their interactions throughout the night, which happens to be his birthday. The more we think we’re learning about Alice, the more we are put off by her behaviors and interactions with others. She befriends a man named Clyde (Michael Chernus), who works with Tom, and infiltrates his friend group and we aren’t told why until after a great deal of time is spent at Tom’s apartment. While we try to piece together Alice’s identity, we learn that Tom is grappling with whether or not to stay in New York or go to California with his wife for her graduate program. Although the film is intriguing, after the secrets are revealed, we are sort of left waiting for more, waiting for the truly sinister part of the secret to be exposed, but sadly it never is.
With an all-star cast including Rachel Weis, Michael Shannon, Danny Glover, Kathy Bates, Azita Ghanzida, Condola Rashad and Michael Chernus, one would not expect this to be an independent film. The film opens with a rather sinister and ominous tone that is left somewhat unresolved and only mellows out by about a third into the movie. The first thirty minutes move so fast that if you blink, you might not pick up on references during the second half of the film. Complete Unknown challenges the audience to work in order to understand the film. Unlike other stories only one of our protagonists is handed to us while we’re left to figure out which of the peripheral characters we should focus on.
The film is ever so slightly reminiscent of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in that it leaves the audience, or at the very least myself with the need to re-watch the first-half of the film in order to better understand it. It’s almost shocking how polarizing the reactions are when our protagonist reveals her story and it begs the question who is saner? The person who leaves everything behind or the one who follows a routine? The film is a mystery although at times it feels like the secrets are unnecessary and over-dramatized at times. The ending is left up to the interpretation of the audience and yet it feels as if Tom’s problems can easily be resolved. The film will be released August 26th.