Complete Unknown

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday October 4, 2016

Complete Unknown

Joshua Marston's little film "slug>"Complete Unknown" asks big questions: Do we belong entirely to the chance operations and choices of our past? Or do we belong equally to the much wider, decision-reliant domain of the future? And even if the past primarily defines who we are, are we truly locked into a single vision, or version, of that past? Is there perhaps a way to interpret -- or even invent -- the past anew, and with it the present time, and one's own identity within it?

Rachel Weisz plays Alice (or Jenny, as she once was known), and Michael Shannon plays Tom, the man who knew her fifteen years earlier in what was, for her, quite literally another life. Since then, Alice has adopted a succession of names, professions, and pasts -- characters, really, which she impersonates and brings to life. Alice is part performance artist and part chameleon, and her own life serves as her canvas.

But when Alice engineers a new meeting with Tom at his birthday party, Tom ha a hard time understanding what she's up to. Is she a con artist? A pathological liar? Is she crazy? Rather than write her off, Tom chooses to puce answers -- and the only way to find them is to accompany Alice on a long night of personal exploration, assessment, and re-invention.

The DVD release features an audio commentary with Marston, who talks about the film's development and the challenges the production encountered. Marston also gives voice to the many reflections one might have while watching the movie, and points out various small moments that the sharp-eyed viewer would take note of -- though he's able, as the film's director and co-writer, to more cleanly and consistently link the clues together and paint a picture of a complex woman and the complicated life she leads.

The film boasts some surprising star power, including appearances by Kathy Bates, Danny Glover, and Michael Chernus. A surprising little treat for aficionados of indies and tight personal dramas.

"Complete Unknown"

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.