Director: Joshua Marston
Running Time: 1 hour, 31 minutes
A woman who regularly changes her identity returns to her hometown and reconnects with an old boyfriend at his birthday party. Once there, he confronts her about why she disappeared 15 years ago.
"Complete Unknown" is directed by Joshua Marston, who is best known for his film "Maria Full of Grace." He also wrote this movie alongside Julian Sheppard. It stars Rachel Weisz as a woman who is introduced as Alice Manning, though she has led many, many lives under many, many names. She returns to her hometown under this new moniker where she deliberately gets herself invited to the birthday party of a friend from the past. Joining her is Michael Shannon, who plays the aforementioned friend named Tom, whose life is at a crossroads. When Alice arrives unexpectedly, it throws him for a loop because he knew her 15 years ago as Jenny before she vanished one day without warning and without a trace. After he confronts her and causes a bit of a blowup at his party, the two go for a walk and discuss how they got to where they are now.
This is a movie that delves into the idea of personal identity and what it is about you that makes you who you are. It also looks at different lifestyles, one of which is a life of familiarity, security, and comfort, the other a life of new experiences, new locations, loose connections, a true life of adventure. Much of these themes can be related to one scene where Tom has his name misspelled on his birthday cake. This is such an innocuous thing, but is a brilliant metaphor for what goes on here. It shows how important one's name is to their sense of identity, how this symbolic gesture is what Jenny uses to take on a new life over and over again.
"Complete Unknown" may feel like a standard indie walk and talk film. On the surface, it may feel like it is pointless, but once you delve deeper into it, it really has a lot to say about personhood, self-worth, connection, identity, and living life in a different, unconventional way. Both Rachel Weisz and Michael Shannon offer excellent, nuanced performances through these deeply compelling characters. This is one of those films where you may discuss the ideals and details it presents long after the credits have rolled.
My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 5.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 48%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?