Puzzle films are always fascinating – and challenging – films to review.
There’s no doubt that there’s mystery afoot in You’ll Never Find Me, an Aussie thriller from directors Josiah Allen and Indianna Bell (the latter also wrote the screenplay). Aside from a brief scene in which a woman knocks on the window of a parked car in the rain, the action is primarily confined to a trailer as a middle aged man (Brendan Rock) hesitantly allows a young female (Jordan Cowan) inside to seek refuge from the storm.
Are the events connected? Why does the girl, named The Visitor in the credits, appear to be lying about how she came to be caught in the storm? And why is the man, named Patrick (51 minutes in), seem equally mysterious and evasive?
You’ll Never Find Me is a film that could work just as easily as a stage play thanks to its two character focus, its single location, and its dialogue-heavy narrative approach. That doesn’t mean it’s boring or stagey, though; not only are Rock and Cowan’s performances incredibly strong, the direction from Allen and Bell ensures that the film is claustrophobic and confined in just the right way.
It doesn’t hurt that there are secrets to be discovered in the trailer; as the film progresses, the space becomes something of an Easter Egg hunt. Initially the action is confined to the front, where the kitchenette and fold-out dining room is the setting for a tense cup of soup. Eventually the geography expands into the bathroom as Patrick creepily encourages the Visitor to warm up by taking a shower, and later, she explores the back bedroom, which harbours new mysteries and questions, just lying in wait.
One of the joys of the film is keeping track of all of the visual and aural clues in order to decipher the truth of these two characters. Both are clearly lying, although it’s not always clear when or why. They’re both incredibly guarded, but attentive, which means they frequently catch each other in a lie, or inadvertently tip their hand at various points. How, for example, did the Visitor get caught in the storm if the gate to the park is locked after dark? Are they both, in fact, unemployed and is his statement about difficult sleeping significant? And can Patrick be trusted when the Visitor finds a woman’s locket, or when he conveniently has a woman’s sweatshirt on hand? (He claims it belongs to his ex)
Helping to keep the anxiety and tension on a knife’s edge is sound designer Duncan Campbell, who ensures that the storm never becomes an afterthought. The storm is an ever-present part of the film’s soundtrack: the driving sheets of rain, the protesting metal screeches of the trailer, and the screaming wind can be heard – vividly – throughout. It’s all encompassing.
As more of their respective backstories is revealed, it’s clear that they might be safer outside in the storm rather than stay trapped inside together. Alas, as the film progresses, it won’t be too difficult for deductive viewers to guess what it happening. Despite going on a surreal, hallucinatory bender in the last twenty minutes, the dragged-out climax robs the film of some of its power; a slightly tighter edit would have helped to maximize the gut punch of the film’s big reveal.
Overall, however, You’ll Never Find Me is an impressive thriller anchored by two compelling and complicated performances. The strong direction maintains a thrilling sense of danger throughout, perfectly complemented by Campbell’s bombastic sound design. Regardless of how audiences ultimately feel about the end, the journey more than justifies the ride for this twisty puzzle film. 4/5
You’ll Never Find Me premiered at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival