Hortense did not seek out her birth family until after … It is filled with comical moments that balance out some of the heavier parts of the film. [12], This film was the subject of "positive pickets" by the adult adoptee rights organisation Bastard Nation, which used it as a vehicle to raise awareness of sealed birth records in the United States and Canada. The story centers on an adult woman, adopted at birth, who is seeking her biological mother. Suggestions? One of my 10 favourite movies of all time, As clear and intelligent a view of family life as there is on film. The pair continue to converse, asking questions about one another's lives. And although there's no neat resolution, there is some hope at the end. I could identify with all of them, and was caught up in what happened to them. We see that being truthful and honest for your entire life is ultimately the best decision, regardless of how hard it may be. Should have been named ''Best Picture'' ! Should have been named ''Best Picture'' ! Hortense is black. Few have done it as well as "Secrets & Lies." A real-life drama full of interest, lightened with splashes of comedy, and has an almost 'documentary' feel thanks to a great cast. Letting all of the emotional pain build up over the course of decades will only lead to an even more painful conclusion. When Maurice pays Cynthia a rare visit, she breaks down in tears, berating her brother for his absence. The film is immensely suspenseful, and this suspense doesn't come in the Hitchcockian 'physical danger around every corner' kind of way. Login via your Ms. Blethyn's scene during the first phone call from "Hortense" should have been enough to earn her the Oscar right then and there. I am very keen on Leigh's work, but it does sometimes stretch credibility and sometimes stretches one's attention span. Because Leigh knows better than to let that scrap of pedantry mar his film. [13], Director Leigh and actress Blethyn met with Bastard Nation activists at a positive picket in Beverly Hills on 10 March 1997, where they were presented with Bastard Nation T-shirts. "[6] In 2009, he added the film to his "Great Movies" list. How d'you think Brits, Aussies and Kiwis cope with 'merkan accents then ? google_color_url = "88CCFF"; Top rating (5 stars of 5). But methinks I've been too harsh - the scenario is not so unlikely, and Blethyn does a pretty good job. I could identify with all of them, and was caught up in what happened to them. Here is a question which has dogged me each time I watch this film - and I have seen it over 40 times: Two times during the film, Cynthia Purley (Brenda Blethyn) discusses the circumstances under which her daughter, Hortense Cumberbatch (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) was born - but when Hortense asks who her father is, Cynthia cannot say. This is one of my very favorite movies of the last 10, even 20 years. On the surface, "Secrets and Lies," a 1996 Best Picture winner at the Cannes Film Festival, is no different. Lives of quiet desperation within a family gradually find healing in this movie about adoption, children and the walls we build around ourselves for protection. Directed by Mike Leigh. | The secret of Hortense's father is never revealed, just an "unknown" marked on the birth certificate, which leaves us to ponder on the fact she was probably raped at fifteen. It is an extremely well-done movie, and the performances were among the best of the year. The truth will out: pried open by champagne, Cynthia tells the family that the black woman who seems too classy to work at the factory with her is in fact her own daughter - and everyone else's sister or in-law. Yet, it feels like it ought to be at the beginning of the film. There is a poignant metaphor in the brother Morris' career as a photographer, as his subjects attempt to cover the stories in their faces long enough to smile for the camera. Surrounded by the crushingly depressing scenes of working class British life, this LONG movie takes work to sit through and the glimpses of intelligent film-making are too brief to save it. It's not Shakespeare or Greek theater, since no one gets stabbed or finds out he's married his mother, but Tennessee Williams or Anton Chekhov would have been envious of this effort. The movie stars Brenda Blethyn in a truly outstanding performance as Cynthia, an exceedingly gentle-hearted, middle-aged woman who has led a lonely existence, pretty much devoid of love and, judging from her relationship with her hateful daughter, even devoid of basic human acknowledgment. 3-bucket tearjerker of hiding one's pain in plain sight. Like his other films, it's entirely improvised by the actors from an outline Leigh writes, but unlike some of those types of movies, you're never left saying, "Okay, cut already!" The slowly dawning moment when Cynthia recalls her brief encounter with Hortense's father is classic, and both actresses run through a wide range of emotions, ending with an unexpected bond between two wildly different people. Leigh brilliantly plays the class card against the race card. This is a lovely, small film with beautiful performances by Brenda Blethyn and Marianne Jean-Baptiste. Now if American audiences could only do the same. FOUR DAYS IN JULY(I think that was the title) was a film I would have liked except back when I saw it, I wasn't able to handle thick accents, so I couldn't understand it. Leigh also writes his own screenplays, and he has a slyly comic way with dialogue that sometimes leavens the harsh proceedings. She lives in East London with her other illegitimate daughter Roxanne, a street sweeper, with whom she has a tense relationship. Heart-rending, bitter and delightful by turn. It is also very amusing in parts - an element of Mike Leigh's talent that is sometimes absent, sometimes ignored. Top rating (5 stars of 5). I had seen it on the shelves before but avoided it because the theme seemed so bleak. When they finally come face to face, Cynthia, not expecting Hortense to be black, insists that a mistake has been made with the birth records. We are exposed to the various secrets and lies formed in this dysfunctional family very early on, and the entire film is just a slow buildup until everything explodes and it is out in the open. His movies are amazing. Cynthia realises that Hortense is the daughter she gave up for adoption as a teenager and hangs up the phone in distress, but Hortense, still determined to learn more about her background, rings Cynthia again and eventually manages to persuade her to meet her. [7], Edward Guthmann of the San Francisco Chronicle called the film Leigh's "best and most accessible work to date" and remarked that "everyone's had these family skirmishes and confrontations in their lives, and it's remarkable to see them recorded so accurately and painfully on film. As the movie becomes obsessed with this white family - and we think we're losing track of Hortense - it rather becomes Cynthia's show. Maurice is a prosperous portrait photographer with an expensive wife who manages to claw through the mundane failures of his life and take beautiful, insightful photographs of his often uncooperative subjects. There is a poignant metaphor in the brother Morris' career as a photographer, as his subjects attempt to cover the stories in their faces long enough to smile for the camera. The film has sideplots rather than subplots, two other stories developed in depth, parallel to the main story, although Leigh masterfully uses them to support rather than weaken the central relationship between Cynthia & Hortense. When asked if Secrets and Lies emphases on a race aspect, Mike Leigh replies, it’s not what he focuses on and he also indicates that its only idiots who do think that way about the fact that Hortense is black and Cynthia is white because, some don’t even know that it is 1996 and people have learned to live with the race issue behind in some societies. This is not a light comedy. Yet she can't bring herself to turn away again from the child she gave up long ago, even though only she knows how much pain lies ahead if she doesn't. There's a spareness about the film (so many scenes go without music that you're often surprised to remember that there IS a music score) that engrosses the viewer, making him concentrate, rather than giving an air of cheapness. You're too engrossed by the story, the emotions it brings up, and the performances. The emotional scene in the diner, in which Cynthia realises that she is indeed Hortense's mother, was filmed in a single uninterrupted take of a little more than 7 minutes. Each time I see this film I like it more. In a superb cast Blethyn stands out as the haunted, tormented Cynthia, hurt & angered by the contempt & pity she sees in the eyes of her brother, sister-in-law & daughter as she staves off nervous breakdown with the bottle. Hortense never finds out about her biological father or how she was conceived. You're too engrossed by the story, the emotions it brings up, and the performances. She has been abandoned by everybody but Maurice, who in one scene visits her unexpectedly. You can literally feel her growing joy in Hortense and how beautiful a person she is. Particularly those of Blethyn, Jean-Baptiste(especially her first scene in the adoption agency), and Spall. User Ratings Everyone has so much inner emotional pain, that when they all end up in a room together your heart explodes with the uncomfortable anguish of every secret revealed. Very well done and a motion picture worth seeing. I'm flabbergasted to read comments from the US complaining about the awful accents in "Secret and lies".