Nobody Has to Know – movie review

A slow moving, sensitive work, Nobody Has to Know concerns a middle-aged farm worker on the Scottish Isle of Lewis who loses his memory after a stroke.

Once released from hospital, Phil Haubin (Bouli Lanners) is generally driven around by Millie MacPherson (Michelle Fairley). A real estate agent, she is the daughter of taciturn farm owner Angus (Julian Glover), where her brother Peter (Cal MacAninch) and Peter’s son Brian (Andrew Still) work alongside Phil. Although still robust, the only appreciable change in Phil is that he is no longer the chatterbox that he was before he suffered the stroke. He is now much more reflective, which suits Millie just fine, as she too is reserved (seemingly a family trait).

It’s clear that there’s a spark between hard working Phil and Millie … and Millie tells Phil they were lovers, but that that was a secret. At the time no explanation is given as to why. This is a God-fearing community, where decorum is expected. Against her better judgment Millie and Phil become intimate again, but there is more here than at first meets the eye, the detail of which unfolds as the movie progresses. Among the revelations is Phil’s back story.

The longer it went, the more I appreciated Nobody Has to Know, which was written by Bouli Lanners (with Stephane Malandrin) and directed by him and Tim Mielants. The film has a deftness of touch … a deliberate restraint, whereby much is left deliberately unsaid. The silences are, indeed, golden.

The largely understated performances are in keeping with the movie’s tone. I particularly applauded the performances of Lanners, Fairley and Still in realising their characters. They are measured, but memorable.

Nobody Has to Know combines charm with gruffness and is impactful as a result. Beautifully shot by Frank van den Eeden, he showcases the rugged splendour of the island. Memorable too is the evocative soundtrack by Pascal Humbert and Sebastien Willemyns.

Although I struggled at times with the broad accents, I would highly recommend Nobody Has to Know to those who value fine, considered independent cinema.

Alex First

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