Complete Unknown (2016) Poster

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Don't believe the bad reviews
smoke011 September 2017
This film is a drama, not so much a mystery, and it has an actual storyline, with characters who can grow and learn while dealing with life-changing decisions.

It is not boring, unless the viewer needs either a lot of exposition or explosions. Without going into spoilers, I can say that there are some seemingly implausible aspects, but nothing in the film is actually impossible to believe.

As already stated, the characters grow and change, and deal with decisions that will impact their lives, and I was pleasantly surprised with the ending, as it was unexpectedly uplifting.
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9/10
unexpectedly enjoyable
keenast24 September 2017
After reading so many somewhat negative reviews I hesitated even watching this film - but then, it's actually a wonderful movie. Great actors and great script too. I guess what so many people don't like is that it's not a 'plot movie' - there's none of this 'overcoming obstacles' and stuff - I for one am glad! It's slow and thoughtful. Highly recommended!
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9/10
Don't read the reviews of either of these two movies.
a227356z13 October 2016
Just last week I noticed how much I was missing seeing some decent films, and then I wander into two this week.

The first was Certain Women.

Not that you should never read reviews, I don't mean that. But some films, like these two, are better to experience blind, at least the first time.

If you glance at the reviews you'll notice that some people like them a lot and some were just perplexed at how anybody could like them at all. But other than the fact that I gave it 9 stars so you know I'm writing this because I think highly of Conplete Unknown, you don't want to know what I know now that I didn't know before, because if you just trust yourself and the discretion of the fine actors who took these roles, then you might get lucky and discover something yourself. Cheers!
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Smart and intriguing, this film will make you think about changing your life.
jdesando13 September 2016
Alice (Rachel Weisz) re-enters Tom's (Michael Shannon) life after disappearing for fifteen years. Only, she's hard to identify because of the multiple personalities she has assumed in those years. She remains the titular heroine of Complete Unknown, and she is a stranger to the end of this complicated and accomplished indie.

Don't come to this absorbing adventure seeking Walter Mitty thrills: Alice subtly changes her personal shape and doesn't burden us with cheap melodrama or even sexual romance. Rather the emphasis is on discovery: As Tom peels back the layers of her personalities and discovers her, he is drawn into discovery of himself and his own unfulfilled life. Although she is the center of the exploration, he is close behind, like all of us afraid to look inside ourselves to see the multiple possibilities for life change.

Complete Unknown exposes the yearning we may all have to live other lives. In Alice's case, she may have lived as a magician's assistant and a researcher, and more in between. But actually whatever roles she has taken, she cannot efface her core self as her return to observe her parents and see Tom again shows.

In a bizarre occurrence on the street, Tom helps a fallen old lady (Kathy Bates) by pretending to be an osteopath, rather enjoying how Alice has roped him into to assuming the new role. At this point, director Joshua Marston shifts from the mystery of Alice's identity to the mystery of who Tom is or wants to be.

He becomes the one whose identity we also speculate about. Whether or not he decides to leave his unfulfilled job to go with his wife to California for her professional study opportunity becomes just as intriguing as Alice's many lives. The film is figuratively blunt about the power of changing one's life, for good or ill.

Marston has masterfully made us question our own identities and our use of talents and pursuit of other lives than the ones we have stuck ourselves in. By extension, Complete Unknown may be a discourse on the ability of art such as movies to take us into lives heretofore unavailable to us.

Anyway, this is a film for thinking people who may want to speculate on the lives they could have and the life they have.
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7/10
Rachel Weisz shines and makes this worth watching
paul-allaer9 September 2016
"Complete Unknown" (2016 release; 92 min.) brings the story of Alice (played by Rachel Weisz). In the pre-credit opening montage, we see her in a number of completely different settings (emergency room nurse, magician's assistant, pianist, etc.) Who is this person? After the opening credits, we get to know Alice, now a biologist in New York. She takes an interest in a guy at the cafeteria, and it's not long before they befriend. One evening they go to a dinner party to celebrate the birthday of her friend's co-worker (played by Michael Shannon). Shockingly, the co-worker recognizes from a prior life, 15 years ago, and confronts her. Why did she vanish without a trace all those years ago? Why did she come back? To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: this is the latest movie from writer-director Josh Marston. Here he tackles a potentially intriguing promise: a woman seemingly drops off the face of the earth 15 years ago, and then returns, all the while spinning tales (are they true? or made up?) about her exploits in Australia, China, Mexico, and so on. The first half hour of the movie is the best, as at that point we are barely understanding what is going on, keeping us hungry to understand the full picture (is Alice battling multiple-personalities disorder? is she a con-artist? a femme fatale? delusional? all of those?). As that full picture emerges, regrettably (but perhaps unavoidably) the mystery is lifted and the movie loses some of its appeal (but not interest). Rachel Weisz absolutely shines in the lead role, and to see her in all these different settings is a true delight. Michael Shannon at times seems to struggle to keep up with Weisz on the screen. Kathy Bates and Danny Glover play an elder couple (one long scene, maybe 10 min. of screen time). The movie flew by in no time, but I also have to be honest: the ending baffled me, and not in the best way. Last but not least, there is a wonderful score, courtesy of Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurrians.

The movie premiered at the Sundance festival earlier this year and was snapped up by Amazon Studios, yes, this is yet another movie release from Amazon, The movie finally opened this weekend at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati and I couldn't wait to see it. The early Friday evening screening where I saw this at was attended nicely, but by no means anywhere near a sell-out. If you are interested in a character and relationship drama that seems it could go in many different directions, and stars the lovely and talented Rachel Weisz, I'd suggest you check out "Complete Unknown", be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on VDV/Blu-ray, and give it a try.
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3/10
An example of disappointment.....Poorly written screenplay and weak story line will be bore you a lot
fillerruth25 August 2016
Rachel Weisz is one of the most talented English actresses and Michael Shannon is one of the most underrated but very good actors. When these two comes together as co-star, I thought this will be a very good drama movie. The trailer and the premises are and thought this will be another Rachel Weisz classic like "The Constant Gardener", "The Fountain", "Agora", and "The Lobster". This is not a typical storyline and I am not telling this is not a good movie but if you saw the previous drama movie of Rachel Weisz, this is definitely a poor film.

I know Joshua Marston is a good director for drama movie and he directed some good TV drama. But this movie is a complete mismatch of the story and the telling style. The screenplay was very poorly written and the story has also plot holes. This is a drama movie and the pace is almost nothing. The whole plot was rounding one specific character(I am not telling the storyline or not giving any spoiler), the dialogues are very choppy and widely not presentative for a slow paced drama movie. CHaracer development is very sluggish and it is completely understood that the lazy screenplay also harmed the character's maturity.

Joshua Marston's direction is not so bad but he didn't find the right combination for the character's chemistry and the movie completely failed to create the sympathy or the emotions for the characters. Editing is not so good and the cast has not done a good job for their roles except Rachel Weisz. She is the one and only plus point of this movie. She has done an outstanding job for the role of Alice Manning. She has a perfect emotion and her dialogue delivery was very good and maybe she is the perfect choice for the role.

Overall I gave it 3 stars only for Rachel Weisz and if the screenplay, script, and the chemistry between the characters did good then the movie would be a good example.
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1/10
Art House Mumblecore at its best
MongoLloyd27 September 2016
Why this vapid material needed a-list acting talent I'll never know but good on the director for getting to work with Shannon and Weisz who were utterly wasted on this meaningless and pointless film story. Starts out pretty vague and meandering and then gels into something you can understand, but then the 3rd act is just more vague, unformed nonsense with no resolution to speak of. I suppose when you have the best of the best as your leads, you can get away with weak material but this film lacked a "persuasive theory," which seems to be a trend as of late with films that either try too hard (and fail) to depict an underlying theme, and films that don't even bother, leaving an audience to fill in the gaps and conjure up their own meaning for the film.
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9/10
Would the story work without someone like Rachel Weisz as Alice?
Red-12519 September 2016
Complete Unknown (2016) was co-written and directed by Joshua Marston. It stars Rachel Weisz as Alice Manning, a beautiful 30-something woman biologist, who manages to make contact with Tom (Michael Shannon) by being invited to his birthday party.

Alice and Tom broke up 15 years earlier, and she disappeared. He presumed she was dead. Tom is now married to a lovely Iranian woman, Ramina, played by Azita Ghanizada. The couple live in New York City, but a problem has arisen. Ramina has been invited to attend a very prestigious three-year course in jewelry design on the west coast. Tom is reluctant to leave his job. (Actually, that plot line is more or less filler. The real plot concerns Alice.)

Alice has done many things in the interim 15 years. One of the questions in the movie is whether she actually has done these things. Alice is an instant and effective liar, so it's hard to know what she has or hasn't done.

The acting in the movie is excellent from the stars to the supporting cast. Look for Kathy Bates and Danny Glover in cameo roles. Condola Rashad plays Sharon, one of the guests at the party. She is the most perceptive person in the movie. She catches on before anyone else does. Azita Ghanizada looks perfect as an intelligent, artistic wife, who cares about her husband, but also cares about her personal development.

I enjoyed this movie because of the fine acting overall, and, particularly, because of Rachel Weisz's performance as Alice. The sets, costumes, and general ambiance looked perfect. My discomfort about the movie is due to the fact that everyone is charmed and fascinated by the enigmatic Alice. I think the entire film would crash because you only care about Alice because she's is played by Rachel Weisz. Rachel Weisz is very beautiful, and director Marston and his cinematographer can't stop looking at her. If Alice were unattractive, no one would care about where she had been and what she had done in the past 15 years.

We saw this film on the large screen at Rochester's excellent Little Theatre. It will work well enough on the small screen. It's interesting to me that Complete Unknown has a dismal overall IMDb rating of 6.7. However, if you look at the demographics, males gave it a 6.5, while females gave it a 7.3. Because, as is typical for IMDb, the number of male votes is three or four times the number of female votes, the male vote prevails. However, 41% of the voters gave it an 8, 9, or 10. Think about this when you decide whether or not to see this film.
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1/10
Why just why did I waste my time with this??
pmaheadquarters4 August 2017
I watched this movie because it billed itself as a "mystery". The only mystery is how anyone could find it entertaining. It was about as enticing as a toenail clipping. I agree with other reviews in that this movie featured very bland and self absorbed characters, not the least of which was the female lead. Also, talk about implausible. The woman doesn't look much over thirty yet she has had all these jobs and experiences, many of which would take years of schooling. Sad and pathetic and yes infuriatingly stupid.
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8/10
You are what you pretend to be
tomsview9 July 2017
Maybe I was in the mood for it, but I found this little movie intriguing. It's certainly different. I didn't read anything too profound into it; I just think it was an interesting story beautifully played.

It seems to have bored some people stiff and the critical response according to Wikipedia was mixed to negative - I guess they weren't in the mood for it.

Alice (Rachel Weisz), a woman who disappeared years before, returns and meets her old boyfriend Tom (Michael Shannon). We learn that she has changed identities and occupations many times, acquiring new skills and friends, only to suddenly leave them all behind to adopt a totally new identity.

This sort of thing usually has sinister undertones often involving serial killers and people held captive in cellars, but here there is nothing evil at all, only feelings of sadness for a lost relationship and Tom's sense of purposelessness in his life.

There are a few more layers to it, and Alice's self indulgent philosophy is questioned.

There is one telling sequence when Alice and Tom help an older couple played by Danny Glover and Kathy Bates. Tom is invited into Alice's world of identity changing almost like in theatre sports where the players are given a character and then have to improvise like crazy; it unlocks something repressed in Tom.

As Alice's story unfolds I thought of that line in Kurt Vonnegut's "Mother Night" - "You must be careful what you pretend to be, because in the end you are what you pretend to be".

The film has a seductive mood aided by an atmospheric score and doesn't outstay its welcome. I won't spoil the ending, but it felt right.

I'm glad I didn't read the critics first - "Complete Unknown" was a complete surprise.
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The reason for making this film? Complete Unknown
gregorija11 August 2020
What can I say about this film? It was complete annoyance, complete irritation, complete delusion, completely nonsense, complete dementia and a complete waste of time. The only character in the film with any sense was the part played by Condola Rashad. The money spent on the making of this film should have been used to feed the poor.
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1/10
Just awful
mduffy5216 September 2016
I won't give away any spoilers although it would be a merciful thing to do if it kept anybody from spending their good money to see this thing. Besides being unbelievably boring, the idea that Rachel Weisz (who I love)would be attracted to this character is ludicrous. There is zero chemistry between them and all you can see on the screen is Shannon's huge head (I know, this is a cheap shot but sometimes it's all I could focus on - how BIG it is). Now if they had gotten someone like Michael Fassbinder the story would have (much) more plausibility as a romantic story. If you go see this film, I promise that after 40 minutes you'll be checking your watch every 5 minutes praying it will be over very, very soon and the pain will finally stop but you will still have a long, long way to go. And good luck in figuring out what either of them actually does for a living, not that it (or this film) really matters.
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1/10
This movie is boring as s**t
marcus-ramdhanie27 September 2016
I read the plot for "Complete Unknown" and thought it sounded interested. After getting the movie, I put it on and its like watching paint dry. What is even going on in the movie? Is this just a very "subtle" drama? I am confused how this movie got 6 stars. I hate to bash your movie, especially if this is from a young director but what delight could a man get out of watching this, bland a** dialogue. Hold up. Maybe I'm trippin. Maybe this movie is a masterpiece and I just don't have the patience to see how it all turns out in the end. Maybe I turned it off right before the story started building? Maybe I should have smoked a blunt and then it would have made more sense? What tf is this dawg?
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Pants On Fire
GManfred7 September 2016
How to separate truth from fiction in Rachel Weisz's character in "Complete Unknown" is the key to the story of a biologist who has led a deceptive life laced with a ton of 'fertilizer'. She has so many falsities in her life story she can't keep them all straight. She appears at a party at Tom's (Michael Shannon) house as the date of his best friend and beguiles the group with so much fabrication that they begin to see through her. But not as fast as Tom, who dated her at some time previous and knows that she isn't even using her real name.

"Complete Unknown" is a character study, about which the moral is 'know thyself' (unless, of course, you don't want to). Lot of good chemistry between Shannon and Weisz, who play off each exceptionally well. The story becomes increasingly beside the point as watching the two display their acting chops. In sum, a silly story held together by two pros. It's an 'indy' which won't get a lot of exposure but is a treat from an acting standpoint.
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1/10
Unbelievably dull, ugly, poorly edited trash.
thefuneralfire13 September 2016
I'm still kind of reeling after seeing this awful, pretentious, infuriating movie. 90 minutes long but it feels like 3 hours, the horribly edited scenes just drag on. Half the characters we meet at the start disappear half way through, never to be seen or heard from again. Just a movie that has no point in existing.

What themes does this movie explore? it's not grounded in any sort of modern day reality, the shooting looks like the DP saw an episode of Mr. Robot and decided to poorly approximate the shooting style. Even the score of this movie is terrible.

Avoid this movie at all costs. Take note of everybody that worked on this movie and try to avoid any of their future projects. If you're expecting to see another Michael Shannon tour de force, hell, if you're expecting to walk away the movie still a fan of his, I'd suggest skipping it.

Everybody from the director to the cast to the crew have embarrassed themselves with this hot garbage pile of a movie.
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1/10
Slow as a Turtle
redsly18 December 2020
Don't waste your time with this movie. It takes us into a swamp of frogs for God's sake.
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5/10
90 minutes to nowhere
ss124-661-38211117 December 2020
Completely implausible. A waste of at least 5 excellent actors. "Catch me if you can" for the feminists. At least Kathy Bates got to rest on the horizontal for ten minutes. I guess the director needed to fill some time because it's a rule that movies can't be less than 90 minutes.
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7/10
Interesting premise, thought provoking on practical issues. It makes you think what your "identity" really entails, when you can get rid of it and trade for a new one
JvH4827 February 2017
Saw this at the Leiden International Film Festival (LIFF) in 2016. After all, the story developed much better than expected. Initially, after half an hour running time, I was asking myself whether the story was going anywhere. Birthday parties can be watched in many different movies, and it seemed to be the center stage of this story. After having done with all the "How are you?? OK" exchanges, something should happen there, a turning point after which the story was expected to take off. Some extra patience was needed, however.

It all went in a completely different direction after another 10 minutes. I must say that it went very well from that moment on, thought provoking even. How tempted one can be to break completely with the past, assuming a different identity, leaving all family members and friends behind without telling them about your whereabouts, even not telling them that you still live. And Alice has done just that several times, and she was prepared to repeat it at this very moment.

That being said, the ending did not satisfy me completely. It left me with many questions about practical things, like passports and credit cards, and how to earn a living without a solid background and without a proved education. But maybe I'm nitpicking now on details. The main idea deserves far better ratings than the ones I saw on IMDb and such. I'm glad that the IMDb User Reviews are controversial, ranging from very low to very high, proving that the movie touched a nerve and that it was not easy to let it go afterwards.

Homework for the reader/viewer: Was Alice's re-connecting with Tom a cry for help, an attempt to fall back on someone she expected to really know her, independent of the many identities she assumed in the meantime?? She took some trouble to indirectly re-connect, while a direct approach could have worked too, so why this convoluted way to meet him again??

All in all, good casting and acting, and the rest is mostly left as an exercise for the viewer. Would you ever have wanted to start with a proverbial clean slate?? And would you have taken for granted that you lose all friends and relatives in the process, since only a clear cut will work out as desired. Let alone the practical and down-to-earth problems, like having no verifiable CV and no proof of the schools you attended. And what about opening a bank account or applying for a credit card?? The devil is in the details with such an undertaking. Don't expect that this movie will teach you how it is done, however, as it will only leave you with open questions. Nevertheless, an interesting premise. The slow start is a negative point, as explained above, and it will drive away many home viewers who don't want to wait 40 minutes for a clear plot to emerge.
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7/10
Semi-Rewarding "Stage Play" with More Head than Heart
LeonLouisRicci27 October 2016
Not Everyone is in Close Proximity to Professional or Semi-Professional "Theatre", this one has "Off-Broadway" Written all over it, therefore the Movies can Offer Audiences want to Experience that sort of Thing, at least "Two Dimensionally".

This Film Looks, Talks, and Plays Out like a Stage Play. Early Television had things like "Playhouse 90" and this Story and Production would Fit Nicely in that Format. The Writing is Sharp, Ambiguous, Mysterious, Attracting, and sometimes even Profound.

The Acting is Uniform and the Two Leads (Rachel Weisz, Michael Shannon) do Their Best Weaving In and Out of the Complicated Scenario. It's one of those that if You Pay Attention, can Draw You into its Maze as the Twists and Turns will Hopefully Lead to a Reward.

Reaching the End of the Puzzle that is "Alice" is Semi-Rewarding and the Jigsaw like Journey does Unveil slightly Disturbing Behavior and is Meant to Question Commitment vs Freedom.

But Life's Important Decisions are so Multi-Layered and Complex that the Easy Answer of just "Moving On" every Year or so is Hardly the Solution to a Varied and Fulfilling Life.

This is Obviously Reflected on "Alice's" Face and Demeanor as She Relates Her Biography and after Her "Confessions/Revelations", She is right Back Where She Started, just like a Rat/Robot going through the Maze Again and Again with Little or No Lasting Reward for Her Efforts.

This is for a Limited Audience, certainly Not for Everyone, but Recommended for those that like Their Movies with More Head than Heart.
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10/10
Excellent. Clear. Spare. Rich. Profound. Brilliantly conceived, staged & performed & directed
pmacinerney11 November 2016
Modern/ classic. Elegant/ mondiale. Pinteresque-Aeschylean.

Open patiently to it. Accept, observe/ welcome. As you would a brilliantly-acted theater piece. Permit the brilliant actors Weisz, Shannon, et alia to perform; let the plot sequence.

As you do, listen to the voicings/ dialogue-phasing -- as you might frogs' singing during a night in a Tasmania. Value the gestures and changes and blockings and incidents: Jenny's swimming, speeches about frog-song study; Tom's futile emailing and efficient cake- cleaving. Understand Tom's wife's jewelry-making and California dreaming -- for both of them; Kathy Bates's and Danny Glover's Magic Theater can't walk-goat meat playlet; the Jenny-Tom embrace -- letting go/ don't let go -- at the end of their Walpurgisnacht eclaircissement.

It's a play of actors with character and incident, dialogue and beat, feeling and thought: unadorned, decorous, ordinary -- a birthday party -- and fantastic. That takes place at quiet stainless-steel space- age Manhattan biotechs, and in a oak-panelled apartment, or on safe streets. But with a dead-grey goat's severed soup head in the quick middle of it.
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2/10
What a waste.
IvnSoft28 January 2018
This one is just a waste of time.

This is not a mistery, or a thriller. It is a drama, and a bad one at that. There is nothing to spoil, because there is no surprise in the movie. Some of the reviews mention a big twist or a big reveal. Im not sure if i watched the same movie, because there is no surprise. It is a flat story.

Clearly this movie was constructed basing the lead with an interesting past. However, it spends most of the time just with awkward silences, and scenes that do not make sense (i mean, they dont make sense to be put on screen).

If you took this movie, and edit out all the silences, unneeded dialogs, and useless scenes... it would last 10 minutes. Including credits.

That might be worth a watch.
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9/10
Stolen Moments
ocean807 January 2018
If you like watching movies about dinner parties and people, add this to your list.
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6/10
Who says 'you only live twice'?
t-dooley-69-38691621 March 2017
Tom played by Michael Shannon is having one of those 'crisis' moments in his life. Whilst on the surface he has all the trappings of success, under the wafer thin surface he is falling apart and losing those things that he had once used to define his very existence.

Then, at a dinner party, a work colleague brings a new 'friend', this is Alice (Rachel Weisz) and immediately Tom recognises her, only he does not remember any 'Alice'. Thus begins a night of revelations and stories at odds with normally acquired experiences. It is the story of one person who has escaped through reinvention and one who craves escape but is shackled by convention.

This is an indie type film but has a high quality production and with the cast it boasts is not short on good performances. The real strength here is the story itself and so that makes this one of those films where one viewing may be enough. That said it is still more than worth seeing even if it is just that once.
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8/10
hidden gem
mrpicky1 March 2019
Very slow, almost noir, weird night of self reflection for two intellectual syncing their clock after 15 years apart. Who am I? do i belong to myself? Do i really want to be stuck in this job for all of my life? Do i really want to be stuck in this marriage for all my life? Very atmospheric almost spiritual movie. Only beginning was little bit shaky, ending i would say was solid.
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9/10
A Movie for Adults...
clacura30 June 2018
This is not a movie for an American audience in general, it just isn't. It is a move for adults. It is mature and sophisticated. That means no CGI or action with guns to solve problems. We just lost 70% of the American audience. This is not for younger people. When we say "art" movie or some other genre, what does that mean?

This is a movie about relationships and the complexity of life. Are you telling me people cannot relate to their split sides? Everyone has a fragmented self. Movies like can illuminate, but I think those who are shallow and in denial cannot see what is right in front of them.

If you saw this in a theater, you were probably with someone. Who wants to walk out of the theater and say, "Wow...I have a lot of Alice in me!" No...we want to hide our shame, not reveal it. If you watch this movie alone, it impacts differently.

So yeah...it is slow and boring to many, but this is an adult movie with intelligence and great acting. There are so many subtle nuances to these characters. This requires attention and focus. You can't watch this with kids playing or phones ringing...FOCUS folks...this is worth it, unless you never want to look at self.
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