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Complete Unknown

Small-scale drama about the life-changing potential of adopting a new identity

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Ever get tired or bored of your life as it is and wish you could just disappear and re-emerge somewhere else with a new identity? Some people apparently manage it, and one of them is at the heart of Joshua Marston’s slim drama. After a confusing beginning, we center in on a dinner party. The married hosts — Tom (Michael Shannon) and Ramina (Azita Ghanizada) —are sparring over a life change, and welcome the distraction of a friend’s (Michael Chernus) beautiful and lively date, Alice (Rachel Weisz). Alice studies noises made by frogs, and shares many intriguing tales from her globe-hopping life. But something doesn’t seem quite right, and her arrival is the catalyst that sends a couple of characters off on a night of self-discovery.

There are some interesting ideas at play about the philosophical ease (or not) of switching identities. (Alas, not so much about the mechanics and paperwork, which I wondered about.) And whether it really is so wrong to be the person somebody wants you to be — say, pretending to be a doctor when helping a fallen pedestrian. There’s also some interstitial material about one’s obligations to the past. It’s all mildly interesting, and helped tremendously by a good cast. (Kathy Bates and Danny Glover also turn up.) But even at only 90 minutes, it felt like a short story stretched out twice as long as necessary.


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