Complete Unknown – Sundance 2016

Imagine walking into a dinner party and coming face to face with someone from your past – but being told they have a completely different name, different history, different life.

Complete Unknown puts Tom (Michael Shannon) into this exact position – and forces him and the audience along with him to examine not only their current happiness – but what it means to ‘be someone’.

Alice (aka Jennifer, aka 8 other people) is played with convincing sincerity by the lovely Rachael Weisz. An over-the-top brilliant young woman with incredible talents – she has come to realize that life can be boring – and one way to eliminate the boredom is to become someone else.

Which leaves the audience to wonder – would I be happier/more fullfilled/less regretful if I just re-invented myself. Is it even possible to just suddenly decide to be a nurse, or a doctor, or a research technician – and after carefully doing the required research – pass yourself off as same to an unwary world?

Would we – the unwary world in which Alice swims – even recognize the foolery – or do we make decisions about folks without doing the hard double checking? Do you really know who were the guests at your last dinner party? How would you re-act to a new person coming to dinner – would you accept them at face value – or wonder if they really were who and what they said they were.

Talented director Joshua Marston sets out to ask us to reconsider the enigma of humanity – and in doing so creates a completely engrossing and challenging film.

It seems easy to think that we’d be smarter than Tom’s family and friends – but I’m not so sure. I think I for one could be easily fooled – and if the ‘fooler’ was determined to carry on the charade – I’d probably go along for the ride.

And here’s a stunning thought – is being a re-enactor so very different from what Alice is doing? When I introduce myself as M. le Docteur Jean Vivant do Clairmont – am I not inventing a past and a career that of course has nothing to do with reality.

Something to think about surely!

Our plan – when the film comes out on DVD – as it surely will – we’ll organize a dinner party – and challenge our guests on the topic. When are you sure you really know someone – and when do you get surprised?

Signing off to see even more movies… The Soup Lady

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