Complete Unknown

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Complete Unknown
Complete Unknown.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Joshua Marston
Produced by
  • Lucas Joaquin
  • Lars Kundsen
  • Jan Van Hoy
Written by
  • Joshua Marston
  • Julian Sheppard
Music by
  • Danny Bensi
  • Saunder Jurrians
Cinematography Christos Voudouris
Edited by Malcolm Jamieson
  • Parts and Labor
  • Heron Television
  • Great Point Media
Distributed by
Release date
Running time
91 minutes
  • United States
  • United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $212,857[1]

Complete Unknown is a 2016 American-British drama mystery thriller film, directed by Joshua Marston, from a screenplay by Marston and Julian Sheppard. It stars Rachel Weisz, Michael Shannon, Kathy Bates and Danny Glover. It had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2016.[2] The film was released on August 26, 2016, by Amazon Studios and IFC Films.[3]


Alice (Weisz) an ever-changing woman in her thirties, is seen doing many professions in many parts of the world. She comes back to New York City after spending most of her twenties abroad under different identities to see Tom, an old college flame. While researching Tom (Shannon), she plans an interaction with his colleague, Clyde at their work cafeteria. She tells Clyde a story of her being a biologist and how she spent the last few years in Tasmania, Australia. She also explains why she is back in NYC. She tells him about a new species of a frog on Long Island. Clyde, obviously taken with Alice, invites her to Tom's birthday party.

Later that night, Tom and his wife Ramina are getting ready for their friends to come over for dinner. Ramina is a jewelry designer and was recently accepted into a design program in San Diego. The two start to bicker as Tom mentions that a committee meeting for a project at work isn't going to be held until September, therefore bringing up the move to CA. Tom leaves to go to the bakery as his friends arrive to fix the spelling of his name on the cake. Clyde arrives with Alice and she is quite a hit with his friends, talking about the new species of frog and her work in Australia. As Tom makes a toast to his friends, he sees Alice and is stunned to see her. She introduces herself and the group have dinner. Alice discusses her travels to Mexico as a teen and how she changed her name from Jennifer, therefore beginning her change of identities. Some of the friends in the group question her choices. Alice also says that she hasn't seen her parents since she left her home since she has never been back. Taken back by her way of life, Clyde is shocked as he didn't know this. Later on the balcony, Tom confronts Alice, calling her Jenny and tells her that he thought she was dead. He also says that she just took off and have had no contact in 15 years. He asks what she wants and asks if she has been home to see her parents since her father once begged Tom to tell him where Alice/Jenny was. Alice explains that she tried to see her parents but couldn't leave the car and that her father died two years ago.

While lighting the candles for the cake, some of the friends in the group are divided in their opinion of Alice. They are either amazed at Alice's courage or angry that she could have so little compassion for those who care for her, particularly Tom. The topic of Ramina moving to CA comes up and she and Tom tell their friends that they are not sure what to do as it is a tough situation. Tom gets angry at his friends butting into his marriage and tells the group they should all go dancing.

While at the club, Alice does a magic trick with olives at the bar and explains that she toured China for a few months as a magician's assistant. Clyde confronts her as that is not what she told him previously, catching her in a lie. The other friends soon turn on her and ask if she just made that all up. Alice grabs her bag and decides to leave. Tom runs after her and asks her if she has actually been to Australia and Alice explains why she does what she does. She says that once something feels too familiar, she decides to start fresh and has done so nine different times. New cities, new names and new professions. The two run into Nina (Bates) while she is walking her dog. Nina falls and sprains her ankle. Tom and Alice help Nina home. There, Alice says that she is a Cardiologist and that Tom is also a doctor. The two meet Roger (Glover) and Tom soon enjoys the whole process of pretending to be someone else. Alice explains that they met in college, but are not together and Tom is married to Ramina. While looking at Nina's back at her request, Tom is suddenly shaken and the two decide to leave.

Later, Tom and Alice discuss the past, particularly how Tom didn't want to be responsible for Alice leaving school since she was supposed to 'have this whole life.' Alice discusses how he looked at her so differently once he found out that she was a piano prodigy. She explains the intense pressure she was under and how she didn't know anything but piano. Alice talks about why she disappeared and Tom tells her that he was jealous of her since she was so driven. He also talks about his dissatisfaction of his job and how he feels that if he left it all, he would feel like a failure. He asks her if she made everything about the frogs and Australia up and she says no. He asks her to show him who she really is now.

Alice takes Tom to the lab where she works. He meets her lab partner James. There they both dress to go out and hear the frogs sing. After they both walk in the woods and hear the frogs, they begin to head back to the city. Alice removes the picture from her desk and looks around the lab as if she is going to leave once more. While on the train, Tom asks what is next and asks her if he can see how she leaves and becomes someone else. As Alice packs her things, Tom asks her how she keeps track of all her identities. She says that 'keeping track isn't that hard part and that the hard part is when everyone around you thinks they know who you are and they try to lay claim to you and you are trapped.' Tom tells her to stop doing it, she laughs. He tells her that all of these people she tries to be are actually just her. Alice asks Tom to come with her, but he says no. As they say goodbye outside her building, Tom says it was good to see her again. The two parts ways and Tom returns home to Ramina. He says to Ramina " Um, about California. I've been thinking." The scene then cuts away, leaving the movie viewer to question whether or not Tom will actually go with Ramina to California, and whether or not their marriage survives his encounter with Alice.

The scene then changes to Alice in a bus station, train station, or airport bathroom. She is getting rid of all her credit cards, but keeps her New York State Drivers license. She puts it in her notebook that she has keep through the years to chronicle all her identity changes. The film ends with Alice disappearing into a crowd of people on a busy street wearing a dark, heavy coat, her hair down. She is walking away from the camera. Then, after she slowly disappears into the crowd of people, and you can't see her anymore, she reappears walking towards the camera, hair up, wearing a different outfit, a white vest with a white shirt underneath. This leaves the viewer to decide whether or not she was walking on the streets of New York City and had decided to stay in order to pursue Tom and perhaps build a future together with him, or whether or not she was in a different city developing a new identity.



In November 2014, it was revealed that Michael Shannon and Rachel Weisz had been cast in the film, with Joshua Marston directing from a screenplay he wrote with Julian Sheppard, with Lars Knudsen and Jay Van Hoy producing under their Parts & Labor banner, also marking Marston's first English-language-film.[4] In February 2015, it was revealed that Kathy Bates and Danny Glover had joined the cast of the film, with Lucas Joaquin joining as a producer.[5] Danny Besi and Saunder Jurianns composed the film's score.[6]


The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2016.[2][7] Amazon Studios acquired U.S distribution rights to the film.[8] It was later revealed IFC Films would co-distribute the film.[9][10] The film was released on August 26, 2016.[11]

Critical response[edit]

Complete Unknown received mixed to negative reviews from film critics. It holds a 42% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 24 reviews, with an average rating of 5.3/10.[12] On Metacritic, the film holds a rating of 59 out of 100, based on 11 critics, indicating "Mixed or average reviews".[13]

Guy Lodge of Variety wrote : "After a tantalizing pre-credit sequence teases the tumbling plethora of forms assumed by Rachel Weisz’s fascinating femme fatale, the compact puzzler that ensues scrutinizes only one of them, pitting her in an elegant but elusive dialogue with Michael Shannon’s bemused onlooker. A most surprising change of pace from Marston, following the international social realism of “Maria Full of Grace” and “The Forgiveness of Blood,” this Amazon Studios acquisition might find only a select audience, but could usher in a glossier phase of its helmer’s career."[14] While John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter stated : "The viewer might have a hard time imagining an ending that will be both satisfying and truthful; it seems the filmmakers shared that dilemma. Sometimes, perhaps, walking off without goodbyes is the best solution."[15]


  1. ^ "Complete Unknown". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 21, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Complete Unknown". Sundance Film Festival. Retrieved May 11, 2016. 
  3. ^ Murthi, Vikram (August 10, 2016). "'Complete Unknown' Trailer: Rachel Weisz And Michael Shannon Star In Romantic Identity Drama". Indiewire. Retrieved August 25, 2016. 
  4. ^ Lavalee, Eric (November 5, 2014). "Alice in Changes; Rachel Weisz & Michael Shannon Takes Seats at Joshua Marston's Table Drama". Retrieved May 11, 2016. 
  5. ^ McNary, Dave (February 23, 2015). "Kathy Bates, Danny Glover Join Rachel Weisz, Michael Shannon in Joshua Marston Project". Variety. Retrieved May 11, 2016. 
  6. ^ "Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans to score Joshua Marston's 'Complete Unknown'". Film Music Reporter. December 2, 2015. Retrieved May 11, 2016. 
  8. ^ McNary, Dave (January 19, 2016). "Sundance: Rachel Weisz's 'Complete Unknown' Bought by Amazon". Variety. Retrieved May 11, 2016. 
  9. ^ Alessandro, Anthony D' (April 14, 2016). "Amazon's Bob Berney At CinemaCon: "All Films We Are Acquiring Will Be Released Theatrically"". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 11, 2016. 
  10. ^ "Complete Unknown". Seattle International Film Festival. Retrieved May 11, 2016. 
  11. ^ Mazzanti, Mike (August 10, 2016). "Rachel Weisz Complicates Michael Shannon's Perfect Life in Trailer For 'Complete Unknown'". The Film Stage. Retrieved August 25, 2016. 
  12. ^ "Complete Unknown (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 11, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Complete Unknown". Metacritic. Retrieved May 11, 2016. 
  14. ^ Lodge, Guy (January 25, 2016). "Sundance Film Review: 'Complete Unknown'". Variety. Retrieved May 11, 2016. 
  15. ^ DeFore, John (January 26, 2016). "'Complete Unknown': Sundance Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 11, 2016. 

External links[edit]