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secrets lies

Secrets & Lies

Starring Brenda Blethyn, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Claire Rushbrook, Timothy Spall, and Phyllis Logan
Written and Directed by Mike Leigh

Regretfully, given the number of "major" releases I see in a year (and the more than double that number from indies that I can't) it took concurrent nominations from the Directors Guild and AMPAS to get me in a seat for Secrets & Lies.

So there I am, sitting in a packed house with fellow DGA members and their guests, wondering why everyone is laughing raucously at the emotionally traumatic scenes played out on the big screen. (Cranky got whacked in the head a number of years ago, so he's a bit slow.) Ten minutes later, he was guffawing along with the rest of the audience at this very gentle look at one family's innate inability to communicate with one another.

Secrets & Lies is the story of Cynthia (Brenda Blethyn), a woman who just gets by on her wages as a factory worker; her daughter, an incredibly angry young woman who sweeps streets; and her well-to-do brother Maurice (Timothy Spall). Cynthia believes that Maurice's wife, Monica (Phyllis Logan), has turned him against her; Cynthia meanwhile envies and resents Monica's child-free life.

It is also the story of a young black woman named Hortense (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), who knows she was adopted after her mother's death, and decides to research and seek out her birth mother. To her surprise she finds that the woman she seeks is Cynthia,and if you haven't read between these lines, Cynthia is white.

The scene in which Hortense and Cynthia meet is, not only for the actors' performances, but for the remarkable confidence of writer/director Mike Leigh to let the actors do their best work. For five, maybe six minutes, the camera remains stock still, not distracting the audience with a movement. It is this scene which, IMO, earned Blethyn her Academy Award® nomination.

Leigh, who was critically lauded for his last film, Naked, uses this technique to great advantage as we see the current dysfunction of each relationship: mother and daughter; daughter and boyfriend, brother and sister, and Hortense with all of them. The assembled cast deliver engaging and exceptionally enjoyable performances.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Secrets & Lies, he would have paid . . .


The standard Oscar® race rating. And yes, had I seen Secrets & Lies prior to the nominations announcement, it would have received this rating. It is highly recommended.

amazon com link Click to buy films by Mike Leigh
Click to buy films starring Brenda Blethyn
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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.