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July 2010

I Know You Know

cast: Robert Carlyle, Arron Fuller, David Bradley, and Karl Johnson

director: Justin Kerrigan

78 minutes (15) 2008
widescreen ratio 16:9
Network DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
review by Ian Sales

I Know You Know

Brian Aldiss' short story Confluence is a series of humorous definitions of words from an alien language. One of the given definitions is: "YUP PA: a book in which everything is understandable except the author's purpose in writing it." It's tempting to apply YUP PA to I Know You Know, Justin Kerrigan's second film, completed nine years after Human Traffic.

Charlie (Robert Carlyle) is an international secret agent. His last job didn't go too well so he and his 12-year-old son, Jamie (Arron Fuller), have returned to Cardiff to await news of Charlie's next mission. He suspects it might have something to do with Astrasat, a satellite broadcasting company which has moved into the area and is putting dishes up all over the place. Jamie is parked with Charlie's uncle, Ernie (Karl Johnson), a retired bus driver, but then moves back in with his father.

News of Charlie's mission comes through, and Jamie is tasked with delivering a secret document to Charlie's boss, Mr Fisher (David Bradley). Charlie is also owed �2,000,000 for services rendered and plans to collect it. He uses Jamie as a courier to deliver important documents, and arranges a meeting at a local casino, to which he also takes Jamie. But the contact never shows. So Charlie gets stinking drunk. The next day, Charlie is still on the trail of the owed money, but his behaviour is turning increasingly paranoid and strange...

I Know You Know is, initially, a film that refuses to make sense. Charlie's occupation is presented as fact, even though the setting, a rundown suburb of a Welsh city during the 1980s, makes it unlikely. But little things don't add up. Going to ground seems sensible, but in the same city where Charlie grew up, and where he's well-known? And yet... A Jensen Interceptor is certainly a secret agent's car, and immediately swapping it for a beat-up Ford Capri is a sensible precaution. Even the sparsely-furnished flat in a tower-block into which Charlie and Jamie move suits Charlie's situation...

It's only when Charlie's behaviour turns erratic - insisting the kettle contains a secret phone to MI6, for example - that Kerrigan reveals what's really going on. Charlie is not right in the head. Worried for his father, Jamie goes to see Mr Fisher, who explains it all. Charlie needs help, so Jamie heads to the local police station and, with the help of a friendly constable, comes up with a story which will persuade his father to have himself committed.

It's only when learning how I Know You Know came about that YUP PA is revealed as an unfair characterisation of the film. According to a director's video diary on the DVD, as a child Justin Kerrigan believed his own father worked for MI6. Shortly after the release of Human Traffic, Kerrigan's father died. I Know You Know is semi-autobiographical; it is Kerrigan's idea of the "ultimate father and son" film; it is a tribute to his father. Without this knowledge, I Know You Know is a somewhat odd, but well-played drama. And it's worth noting that Robert Carlyle is especially good as Charlie, as is Arron Fuller and Jamie.

I Know You Know is a film it's easier to appreciate than to enjoy. It's extremely well-made, but its deliberate wrong-footing of the viewer, its refusal to present its story openly, can make for a difficult viewing experience. It is, I think, a film that will bear repeated viewings, however.



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