“Have you all watched Jason Bourne?” inquires Brian (played by Andrew Still), a farm worker in the Outer Hebrides, at the beginning of Nobody Has to Know. “It’s a similar premise!” How clever of the writer-director Bouli Lanners to reference that intense action series, while his own film is completely unique aside from a storyline about amnesia. The only remotely thrilling moment in this film happens when a real estate agent is late coming back to the office, forcing her coworker to take a delayed lunch break.
This movie may not be the most thrilling, but it still manages to stir up some emotions. With its similarities to the 1940s tearjerker Random Harvest, Lanners aims for a similar level of impact. The protagonist, Phil, is a toned-down version of a Bourne-like hero and suffers a mild stroke. Despite this, he remains photogenic and shows no signs of paralysis or facial paralysis. However, he does experience a bit of temporary amnesia, which leads to some whimsical moments. For example, he can’t remember how a dalmatian named Nigel ended up in his house. This memory loss also allows Millie, the emotionally distant daughter of Phil’s boss Angus, to deceive him by pretending they were in a relationship, much like in the movie “While You Were Sleeping.” In his dazed state, Phil asks hopefully, “Are we still together?”
The British Board of Film Classification states that the movie’s 12A rating is due to its depiction of “sexual coercion,” but Lanners handles potentially controversial moments in a way that avoids being tasteless. He ensures that any potential conflicts, such as the origin of Nigel or Phil’s eventual realization of Millie’s deceit, are resolved calmly, without causing any dramatic ripples. All of the characters in the film are either timid or have good intentions, and even those who have not experienced a medical emergency are dealing with matters of the heart.
Unfortunately, the script of Nobody Has to Know may not be as captivating as one would hope. It bears a resemblance to an Aki Kaurismäki film, but lacks the big laughs and striking visuals. Cinematographer Frank van den Eeden’s work stands out, showcasing the stunning Isle of Lewis scenery and solitary characters gazing out at the sea. Fairley shines among the restrained cast, although Millie’s emotional journey can easily be foreseen from the beginning when her hair is pinned tightly. It’s inevitable that it will eventually come loose within the 90-minute runtime.