Wednesday, September 26, 2012

908. Secrets & Lies (1996)

Running Time: 142 minutes
Directed By: Mike Leigh
Written By: Mike Leigh
Main Cast: Timothy Spall, Brenda Blethyn, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Claire Rushbrook, Phyllis Logan
Click here to view the trailer


Fresh, new and exciting - these are just three of the attributes that I've been longing for over the past couple of weeks, as I've yearned to see a movie on a first time viewing that blew me away. Well, I'll immediately cease my harping because I've been granted my wish in the form of Mike Leigh's 1996 Palme D'Or winner, "Secrets & Lies".

The film revolves around one family and several main characters and is set in England. Hortense (Jean-Baptiste) is an African-American optometrist who's mother has recently died. However, it isn't her real mother, but rather her adoptive mother and with both of her adoptive parents now deceased, she feels it's time to track down her real mom. Enter Cynthia Rose Purley (Blethyn), an uneducated, factory worker, sharing a flat with her daughter, Roxanne (Rushbrook). One day, Cynthia receives a call from Hortense, who informs her that she is her biological daughter and that she'd like to meet her. Cynthia freaks out at first, not wanting the rest of her family to know about Hortense, but later, comes around to the idea of meeting her. When they meet, Cynthia is shocked to learn that Hortense is black and, at first, can't recall ever having "been with" a black man. Meanwhile, Maurice Purley, Cynthia's brother, is doing very well for himself. He's a married man (sometimes happily, sometimes not) who owns a photography business and has just purchased a new, grand home. The film takes place over the course of several months, leading up to Roxanne's birthday party, where she plans to reunite with her uncle Maurice, whom she hasn't seen in years. The birthday party also plays host to the climax of the movie, where many secrets...and lies are revealed.


Am I the only one who thought that somehow they were going to reveal that Roxanne was actually Maurice's daughter and not Cynthia's? It just seemed obvious throughout the picture, in the way that Maurice reminisced about Roxanne, that she was his. Oh well...I was wrong - it's rare, but it happens :) Anyway, what a fantastic film this was and to think that Netflix doesn't even have the audacity to carry it and that I had to seek it out and watch it on YouTube (rush right now and you might catch it before they take it down). I kind of had a feeling about this one from the get go. The deep characters, the atmosphere, the story and the score were all right up my alley and honestly, it was a tough film not to like. Besides the occasional moment where you'd have to stop and ask yourself what the characters with the thick English accents just said, the movie flowed along quite nicely and used it's two plus hour running time quite nicely, never dragging.

I think the film says that EVERY family has their secrets and lies and that sometimes they come out and sometimes they're kept behind sealed lips, never to be mentioned. But the real focus here isn't necessarily on the secrets and lies, but rather the characters, their interactions and their personalities. Mike Leigh gives us characters that we can easily become interested in and always leaves us with one or two questions, just to keep our umbilical chord to the screen intact. The acting is as top notch as you'll find and could be held up against any one of the other 1000 movies in THE BOOK. I also like how Leigh doesn't shove the characters down our throats, but rather gives them to us gradually and then takes them away for long segments. We don't see scene after scene with Timothy Spall's character, but instead we get a scene or two with him and then we leave him be for a while to examine Marianne Jean-Baptiste's character for a little while. At this point, I really feel like I'm rambling, so lets just say that I liked it, it was a breath of fresh air in a 100 that has left me gasping for breath in a manhole covered sewer.

RATING: 8.5/10  Lets hope this is just the beginning in a long run of movies that score a '7' or higher. I really wish Mike Leigh had some more movies in THE BOOK, cause I'd really like to check out some more of his work now. However, this is his one and only "must see" movie, apparently.


September 26, 2012  7:07pm


  1. Film 4 - a leading Freeview channel in the UK, has just done an extensive Mike Leigh retrospective to co-incide with the release of a new documentary of his.. "The spirit of '45".
    In 1945, to everyone's surprise, having led us through the war, Churchill and the right(ish) Conservative party was roundly defeated in an election by the heavily socialist Labour Party who introduced a raft of radical policies.. Rail, steel, mines, docks were all nationalised. A free for everyone national health service introduced.. Huge reforms in Education, work place law were brought in.
    Anyway, we got to see a whole bunch of his older films... some of which I had not seen before.
    A bit surprised at your reaction to this.. mike Leigh is usually VERY political.. but I guess this is one of his less radical ones.. much ore human than political statement.
    Oh, I agree with you, I like this one as well...

    1. Yeah, I didn't get anything political out of this one, just some very human emotions from very good actors. Well, they're British aren't they, I suppose they're born to be great actors.


SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #66: La piscine/The Swimming Pool (1969)

Running Time: 120 minutes Directed By: Jacques Deray Written By: Jean-Claude Carriere, Jacques Deray, Alain Page Main Cast: Alain Del...