Another quirky, small film lost in cinematic space.
The ultimate irony of Director Joshua Marston’s Complete Unknown is that it will end up completely unknown. It presents a philosophical mystery that is all but unresolvable.
In a nutshell, a party is taking place in New York to honor the birthday of Tom (Michael Shannon), a low level government bureaucrat who is trying to find some level of success. He is clearly bored despite the fact that he is married to the beautiful Ramina (Azita Ghanizada), an artist who has been offered a great position in California. Do they stay or move, that is the question.
But who would have thought that a beautiful woman named Jenny would have maneuvered her way into the party. Tom clearly becomes unnerved, as it soon becomes apparent that Jenny abruptly left him 15 years earlier, disappearing into a dark abyss. The movie literally centers on one question, namely who is Jenny and where in God’s name has she been?
Besides the performance of the always talented Mr. Shannon, the film’s primary redeeming virtue is that Jenny is played by the wonderful Rachel Weisz. As an actress, I love her to death, primarily because she consistently chooses eccentric roles in films that are largely ignored by the public. As examples, think of her in my recently reviewed The Light Between Oceans, not to mention The Lobster and last year’s Youth. She is not an actress who seeks to impersonate Jennifer Lawrence’s career in The Hunger Games and The X-Men series.
As you listen to Jenny explain her life, it is clear that she has disappeared to live in various countries under assumed names. She has rejected tradition in every respect, instead deciding to live the life of a modern day 16th century naval explorer.
While the film comes close to beating you to death with its underlying theme, it poses an interesting question. If we pursue traditional avenues in life as opposed to those where we reject conformity, which person will be the happiest as they reach old age?
The real value of the film comes from the fact that Mr. Shannon’s Tom learns a valuable lesson that came close to destroying his life. This is one of those films that is easy to forget while it simultaneously leaves you pondering its meaning.