“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 setup!” How clever of the writer-director Bouli Lanners to reference that fast-paced action series when his own movie is quite distinct, except for the element of memory loss in the plot. The only action sequence in this film is when an agent is delayed coming back to the office, causing her coworker to take a lunch break later than usual.
The movie may not be an intense thriller, but it still manages to stir up feelings in the audience. The script bears similarities to the emotional drama Random Harvest from the 1940s, showing the filmmaker’s aspirations for similar recognition. The protagonist, Phil (played by Lanners), is a toned-down version of a Bourne-like hero who has a stroke. However, it is a mild and aesthetically pleasing one, with no physical impairments except for temporary amnesia that manifests in lighthearted ways. For instance, he cannot remember how a dalmatian named Nigel ended up in his house. This memory loss also allows Millie (played by Michelle Fairley), the daughter of Phil’s boss Angus (played by Julian Glover), to deceive him into thinking they were in a relationship, similar to the plot of While You Were Sleeping. In a state of confusion but with a glimmer of hope, he asks, “Are we still together?”
The British Board of Film Classification has included “sexual coercion” as a factor in the film’s 12A rating. However, Lanners handles potential insensitivity by smoothly resolving any potential conflicts, such as Nigel’s origins or Phil’s eventual realization of Millie’s deceit. This results in a lack of dramatic tension, as all characters are either timid or kind-hearted, and even those who have not experienced a medical crisis are dealing with matters of the heart.
The film Nobody Has to Know has a script that lacks liveliness and is similar to an Aki Kaurismäki movie, but without the comedic moments and visually stunning set design. The cinematography by Frank van den Eeden is the standout element, capturing the striking landscape of the Isle of Lewis and the characters lost in thought while gazing at the sea. Fairley stands out in the subtle cast, although Millie’s emotional journey is expected; as soon as we see her hair tightly pinned, we know it will inevitably come undone in the next 90 minutes.