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Complete Unknown DVD Review

Complete Unknown (2016) movie poster Complete Unknown

Theatrical Release: August 26, 2016 / Running Time: 92 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Joshua Marston / Writers: Joshua Marston, Julian Sheppard

Cast: Rachel Weisz (Alice Manning/Jenny), Michael Shannon (Tom), Michael Chernus (Clyde Goodwin Jr.), Azita Ghanizada (Ramina), Omar Metwally (Farshad), Chris Lowell (Brad), Frank De Julio (Mark), Condola Rashad (Sharon), Danny Glover (Roger), Kathy Bates (Nina)

Buy Complete Unknown from Amazon.com: DVD Instant Video

Joshua Marston made a promising debut as writer and director of Maria Full of Grace, a 2004 Colombian film whose leading lady earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
In the twelve years since, Marston has worked primarily in television, directing single episodes of "Law & Order", "The Good Wife", "The Newsroom", "In Treatment" and other dramatic series. He contributed a segment to 2008's not so good anthology film New York, I Love You and he also directed and co-wrote the 2011 Albanian film The Forgiveness of Blood.

Marston's third solo feature at the helm, Complete Unknown, is his first to shoot in America and be performed predominantly in English. This independent drama stars Rachel Weisz as a woman who resurfaces at the birthday party of her ex, Tom (Michael Shannon), fifteen years after they last saw each other. Now using the name Alice Manning, this woman claims to have just gotten back from Tasmania. But Tom knew and loved her as Jenny, a rather different person who simply disappeared without warning or explanation.

In Joshua Marston's "Complete Unknown", a couple (Michael Shannon and Rachel Weisz) reconnects fifteen years after the woman disappeared.

As they reconnect, Alice explains how she has felt alive by reinventing herself in different parts of the world with different looks, names, professions, and stories. This lifestyle has involved some pathological lying and created hurt in those like Tom who cared for her. But she shows Tom how intoxicating the practice can be, when she prods him into posing as a doctor after they help a stranger (Kathy Bates) who injures her ankle walking her dog.

Alice's reappearance comes at a time when Tom's own life is at a crossroads. His jewelry-making wife Ramina (Azita Ghanizada) has just been accepted into a program in California. He is reluctant to move across the country with her, even though his job of e-mailing suggested guidelines is almost altogether unfulfilling. Might he follow Alice's lead or possibly even Alice down the rabbit hole of reinvention?

Danny Glover and Kathy Bates chip in some veteran support as a dry joke-making Haitian and his injured wife.

Complete Unknown doesn't answer that question or even linger on it. This character study, which Marston wrote with sparsely-seasoned Julian Sheppard, invites you to think about its ideas rather than doing the thinking for you or letting the plot unfold in a less than fluid and organic fashion.
The introspective Tom is clearly pondering his past, present, and future as he visits Alice's workplace and gets to hear in person the singing of a newly-discovered frog species.

Those who like clear narratives and tidy endings may leave this film frustrated. But Weisz and Shannon expectedly imbue their lead roles with depth, enabling us to get inside their characters' heads and try to understand what they're thinking. And the script has some fascinating ideas to explore.

Acquired by Amazon Studios at January's Sundance Film Festival, Complete Unknown was distributed in theaters by IFC Films, who released it in two theaters in the final weekend of August and expanded it to 63 three weeks later. Its domestic box office record mostly wrapped up just shy of $200,0000, Complete Unknown races to DVD, with no Blu-ray edition offered, on Tuesday by sometimes Amazon Studios home video partner Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Complete Unknown DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.39:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extra Subtitled in English
Release Date: October 4, 2016
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $25.99
Black Keepcase
Also available on Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Complete Unknown looks good for standard definition, but not as good the high definition that most of its contemporaries are treated to. Still, the 2.39:1 anamorphic widescreen picture and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound are perfectly adequate for the medium.

Complete Unknown's DVD main menu should have used the singular "Special Feature", because all it holds is an audio commentary.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The only extra found here is an audio commentary by director/co-writer Joshua Marston.
He elaborates on some of the ideas raised but not made fully clear in the movie, touching on a mix of story and technical topics. Though informative, the track is a bit of a challenge based on both Marston's slightly grating voice and the solo nature. It would have benefitted from the contributions of either lead or co-writer Julian Sheppard.

Adapted from the cover/poster art, the static main menu has some score laid over it. No trailer for Complete Unknown or anything else is included here.

No inserts or slipcovers accompany the keepcase, which means you'll net neither a digital copy nor Sony Rewards Points with this purchase.

Rachel Weisz plays nine characters in one as a self-reinventing mystery woman sometimes known as Alice Manning.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Complete Unknown is a thought-provoking and well-acted independent drama. Judging from its muted response both with critics and the arthouse moviegoing crowd, not everyone will appreciate this film, which deserves better than the lightweight DVD-only release it gets.

Buy Complete Unknown from Amazon.com: DVD / Instant Video

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Michael Chernus: Mistress America Men in Black 3 People Places Things

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Reviewed October 1, 2016.



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