Cynthia lives in London with her sullen street-sweeper daughter. Her brother has been successful with his photographers business and now lives nearby in a more upmarket house. But Cynthia hasnt even been invited round there after a year. So, all round, she feels rather lonely and isolated. Meanwhile, in another part of town, Hortense, adopted at birth but now grown up, starts to try and trace her mother.
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At times while watching you wonder whether Leigh is serious about thisattempt..Did he really try to create a moving film and lead the viewer tocatharsis? The feeling conveyed by this film is a blend of drama andcomedy.I mean at some scenes while a dramatic music is accompanying theplotcentered around the life of the unmarried english middleaged Cynthia ,herbehavior just makes you wanna laugh..Because she is so convincingly naiveand "simple" that even her unhappiness seams comic.Her smooth maneredbrother Maurice is also enjoyable as the photographer who knows his jobwellbut lives an unfullfiled life with a wife he loves but without achild.Doesit sound like a brtittish soap opera?More so if you knew the rest of theplot and the simplicity of the messages conveyed through it.One obviousbeing that people need love and that love is a solution to humanlonliness..Except the dialogue is not "wooden" the acting is very goodthepicture is cinematic and so on..But the question remains:"Is this atempt aserious one?"Is it a drama or a comedy? Well it doesn't matter...Either bychance or due to a "deeper" approach the blend works..Because life isneither "serious" nor "funny" nor "simple" nor "complex" ,or rather is allthat .The film may not be an unforgetable or exactly exiting cinematicexperience.But it is not a silly melodrama that forces pitty emotions outofyou either.It is enjoyable and satisfying because you can identify withthecharacters and their reactions as human biological units that don'talwaysunderstand their feelings and emotions or their purpose but experiencethemall the same and are ruled by them..7.5/10
"Secrets and lies! We're all in pain! Why can't we share our pain? I've spent my entire life trying to make people happy, and the three people I love the most in the world hate each other's guts, and I'm in the middle! I can't take it anymore!" One of the most beautiful, heart-breaking, heart-warming, Truthful movies that I have ever seen.
Personal family issues that have been avoided and lied about finallyare confronted when Hortense (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) decides to findher biological mother after her adoptive mother has died. After findingher biological mother Cynthia(Brenda Blethyn), she is still confrontedwith the secrets that have been hidden within the family for years.Secrets and Lies show how heavy a load can be to carry when a secretwith such magnitude as a adoption, can a future effects on an entirefamily. Hortense's(Jean-Baptiste) biological family has more than justthe adoption that has been hidden. It takes this to bring out thetruths that have been hidden, not just about the adoption, but othersecrets as well.The most intriguing part of the film is where Cynthia(Blethyn) invitesHortense(Jean-Baptiste) to her other daughter's birthday party. It isthen that the family finally opens up about the hidden secrets thatthey all have been hiding.The film's conclusion shows that it is possible to rebuild the futureno matter what the past, and how secrets and lies can and will harminnocent people.Mike Leigh does an excellent job in portraying the feeling of being anoutsider always looking in, and not fitting in.
Mike Leigh seems to have founded the school of anti-Hollywood. I know thatwhenever I see a film of his it will be well written and can't watch it. The accents are so awful that I have to close my eyes to be able to figureout what they're saying. In this film Brenda Blethen concocts an accent thatis so incomprehensible that I couldn't watch the film straight but had tobreak it up into many viewings. I saw My Left Foot so I know this is made upbecause she had a different accent there. It seems every year Mike Leighputs out an award winning film and I dread them because they're made up ofthe most low class charachters and awful sounding voices. As far as thisfilm, a more Hollywood like treatment would make it moreenjoyable
Whatever you do, do not buy this horrible, "IMPORTED" edition of this fine film. What Amazon forgets to mention in its "technical information" section is that this is an import from China! That means the text on the DVD's case is written almost exclusively in Chinese. Also--and much more importantly--this DVD has Chinese subtitles that you can not get rid of. Additionally, the sound and image are well beyond subpar; the VHS edition is cleaner. So unless you're a collector of imported DVD's, do not buy this DVD!
This movie deals with serious subject matter in a lighthearted and emotional way. The secrets and lies are devastating and the director handles all of this with warmth, wit, and intelligence. He gives you a indepth look into everyones life. You feel like you know each character and why they feel as they do about the secrets and lies. You can't pick sides in this one. You'll love everyone!
"Secrets and Lies" is an exquisitely crafted movie, a recognition ofthe ties that bind us, although we often contest and deny such ties,for myriad reasons. Leigh is an immensely talented director, in controlof the many resources at hand and he marshals said resources forcompelling ends in this movie. In this case, the film is, as mentioned, a recognition of the tieswhich bind and how they are sometimes unseen and, even when recognized,sometimes denied. The story that Leigh tells is that of the Purleyfamily, a family with problems like any other. I hesitate to use theterm dysfunctional because it seems the vast majority of families areof this nature and it is rare, the family which is "functional".Indeed, such a family might be somewhat dull to watch during the courseof a film because, well, where would the conflict be? In any case, thefamily which Leigh depicts consists in a man named Mo Purley (theamazing Timothy Spall, who has starred several times for Leigh), asuccessful photographer who has attained a level of success at which hecan now buy a nice house with his somewhat superficial wife Monica(Phyllis Logan). Mo has an older sister named Cynthia (the astonishingBrenda Blethyn) who lives a more banal life. She had a child at a youngage and missed out on her education and so works in a factory and seemssomewhat obsessed with retaining her youthfulness (and indeed she hasremained in good physical shape, even if her looks have worn down, asthey might by one's early 40s). Cynthia's daughter Roxanne (ClaireRushbrook) works as a city sweeper and resists her mother's advice onhow she might better herself. The two women live together in a smallhouse and are short-tempered with one another much of the time,familiarity and proximity might sometimes induce. Roxanne seems the most happy with her life although it would not besatisfying for many. She seems happy because she does not, apparently,wish for much more than she has. She is quite happy with her relaxedrelationship with a construction worker Paul (Lee Ross) and theirroutine of watching television and having a couple of pints at the pubmany evenings. Her lack of ambition is not to indict those who havegoals, but simply to affirm the value of appreciating what one has. The development which propels the story forward is that a youngAfro-Caribbean optometrist, a successful and more composed yin to thePurleys' yang, Hortense (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) decides one day totrack down her biological mother. It turns out to be Cynthia, whoherself is at her wits' end, discouraged with her dull and monotonouslife and with very little self-confidence. Cynthia, however, is a verynice person and is greatly loved by her younger brother for her role inraising him after their mother died when they were children. Therelationship between the successful black optometrist and the whitefactory worker transforms both lives, giving both new appreciation forthe wonderful complexity and richness of life. I must admit that I thought that the revelations in the film were notparticularly shocking at first. I thought to myself that I had seenmany more jarring and shocking developments before. That said, theacting in this film is second-to-none. Spall, Jean-Baptiste, andBlethyn in particular are exceptional and, although I have seen somecritical comments of Frances McDormand for her Oscar-winningperformance in "Fargo", I do not think she was undeserving of theaward, at least to the degree which some commenters seem to believe.Yes, her performance did not require the emotional range of Blethyn's,or the control of Baptiste's but in enlivening a bland Minnesota policeofficer, McDormand admirably imagined the cadences and persona ofanonymity, and made them compelling. That said, I would not have had aproblem with Blethyn winning. Her reaction when it sinks in that thegirl she had given up for adoption has found her, is amazing. And thegradual transformation which this revelation has on her life is alsoamazing, as imagined by Blethyn. In short, Blethyn's performance wasOscar-worthy. Baptiste is also amazing, embodying, with such restraint, the oppositeof the out-of-control lives which burden the Purleys. She is theessence of class and provides a soothing counterpoint to the chaos ofthe Purleys' lives. And for me, Spall is better than both ladies- whichis saying something. One can see the strain that these uneasyrelationships are having on him and how he attempts to remain on aneven keel amid the tensions and sniping between other family members.He retains this composure until a memorable explosion toward the end ofthe film. Were he not so composed throughout, the story would have noemotional center. Spall is fantastic. Leigh's direction is admirable in its restraint. He recognizes that hehas a winning story and he elicits measured performances from hisactors, building up to the climax of the film without giving up anytension along the way. The metaphor of Mo's photography and his abilityto elicit appropriate reactions from family members with obviouslyconflicting agendas and attitudes is representative of his abilities tosteer the feelings of family members away from the harmful, hurtfulreactions which they all wish to unleash on one another. He capturessnapshots of groups as they wish to be captured. However, the mode inwhich they are photographed usually does not reflect their actualfeelings at the time, and indeed may obscure peoples' true feelingsabout being there, in those circumstances, with those people. In short, this film captures persuasively the degree to which we hideour feelings from one another and how revelation might be better forour mental health and may not actually harm us as much as enable us tocome to terms with ourselves.
This review is from: Secrets & Lies [IMPORT] (DVD) Although "Secrets & Lies" by Mike Leigh is a great movie, a five (5) star movie, this version on DVD is not. The [IMPORT] label on the title does not mean it's from England. Instead, it's an Asian import with large Chinese character subtitles on the bottom of the screen. These are not optional subtitles; you can not remove them and they can be very annoying at times. In fact, there are no other subtitles available, even though English subtitles would have been very helpful with the dialogue at times. Sorry to give you the bad news for such a fine movie.
I simply love this film.The characters are all flawed, and their flaws lead them to hurt eachother in different ways. Yet the film allows us to see them as deep,complex human beings, presents them as decent people trying to do theright thing, lets us empathise with them, and allows each to findredemption.The film treads the fine line between laughter and tears. It never endsup belittling the characters or descending into mawkish pity.Watching lonely, disappointed Cynthia trying to reach out to her angryand isolated daughter Roxanne by suggesting that Roxanne should borrowher old Dutch cap and go on a date is simultaneously hilarious,embarrassing and painful.All of the actors put in superb performances of great depth andhumanity. These are real people: You probably know someone like eachone of them.As the film edges from Hortense's decision to trace her mother, toRoxanne's memorable birthday party, where the secrets and lies areexposed, you're rooting for them all.One final point. In films about family, men are usually portrayed asvillainous or hapless or both. That's not true here. The malecharacters (childless Maurice, Roxanne's boyfriend Paul, and Cynthia'sfather - dead but referred to by several characters) are allowed tohave realistic, thoughtful and brave relationships with the femalecharacters and the family as a whole.A superb, life-affirming movie that shows the value of truth,forgiveness and family, even in the depths of despair. You'll laugh andcry in equal measure.
"Secrets and Lies" is the suitable title for this movie as adysfunctional family is about to have numerous secrets revealed tothem. The secrets all comes alive when a black optometrist Hortense(Marianne Jean-Baptiste) pays a visit to her biological mother afterher parents passed on. A social worker recommended not to seek out herreal parents, but Hortense being passive of the warning decides tofulfill her search. Hortense phones her birth mother Cynthia (BrendaBlethyn), a frustrated factory worker who lives with her 20 year olddaughter Roxanne (Claire Rushbrook). After a series of disastrous phonecalls, they finally get to to meet each other, much to the doubt inCynthia's mind that she has a black daughter. And then suddenly,Cynthia starts to recall an event that happened to her a long time ago.We the audience are manipulated to believe that she was raped, but thatwas never really revealed. That's the uniqueness of director MikeLeigh's characters. They seem to have dark pasts that are really nevertouched. Another nice plus is that there is no racial issues betweenHortense and her newly acquainted disjointed family. With the onlyexception being the doubt of Cynthia having a black daughter.As we follow Hortense on her journey, we also take focus on Cynthia'syounger brother, Maurice (Timothy Spall) who's a successfulphotographer by profession. The movie itself isn't all drama andseriousness, there's plenty of humor added to the fray as well. One ofthe funnier moments is when Maurice is taking pictures of differentpeople. The people behind those photographs gives you that felling ofhow they wish to be represented. Maurice has been estranged from his sister for quite a long time,mainly due to his cold, self-important wife Monica (Phyllis Logan). Thepivotal moments happen when Hortense is invited to a barbecue andCynthia decides to open up to the family revealing that Hortense is herdaughter. Roxanne becomes distraught, Cynthia get emotional, andMaurice is at a loss of words. The dialogue of the movie title itselfwhere the family is torn apart by the spilling of the beans doesn'toffer much for the audience to draw up their own conclusions, but theoverdone dialogue can be forgiven thanks mainly due to theseearth-shattering revelations. With a group of lesser known performers,this movie would've been a dud. Sure the initiative in this movie was a bit painful to watch. The bombsthat drop look like they're almost ready to explode. And we sympathizewith Hortense by throwing the towel at her at what she's gettingherself into. Bleak as the film might be, it still inspires you taketake a closer look at your family and to say to yourself, that you areall very lucky. Every performer does an incredible performance with top honors toBlethyn, this movie will stick to your ribs for a long time to come.
I love films, and I loved this film. But as an adoptee, in the process of reunion (in the states, where it is unecassarily, and painfully harder to search), this film touched places in me that it couldn't for the other reviewers. My reunion has been eerily similar to the characters' in this film- an Aunt, who thought my sister had a right to know about me, who loved her nieces and resented their mother for squandering her oppurtunity at motherhood, when she couldn't have the children she so desperately wanted, and who finally faced the truth of that resentment, and the reality of her situation. A birthmother, who though she can't quite get it together, for the love of her children, tries to reach within herself to find the strength to face her past, to turn to the truth instead of secrets. The quiet person in the background that holds everyone together, when they are trying their best to tear themselves apart -that would be the photographer in the film- who, although seemingly disinterested with his job a times, it's quite clear it's his only escape from the dysfunction of his family, and the only light in his existence. The adoptee- who, though she wants to know her roots so badly, is ill prepared for these wounds that have run so deep, for so long. She doesn't want to displace anyone in the process of the reunion, but fights her own internal needs constantly, so she can get some peace and closure, and not just have the door slammed in her face. Although she has done well for herself, you can see in Hortense' eyes, that piece of herself is missing, that part of herself that isn't like anyone else she's known in her life. That is the burden you can see visibly lifted of Hortense' shoulders in the final scenes, and you can even see those little pieces finding their way back into everyone's hearts.Some of the looks, and emotions you can see Hortense going through, are ones I just felt a month ago, or even last week. Unless you have walked in her shoes, you couldn't know what some of the looks she gives Monica mean. For me, though, those looks were some of the most poignant moments in the film. This film definetely has all the elements of a great film, but more importantly to me, is how accurate this film can be when looking at the reality of reunions, what they are about, what they feel like. The fact is, reunions bring out all the skeletons in the closet, they reveal the truth, in the end, there are no more secrets and lies, (perhaps that's why people have fought here in the state's to keep the records sealed).It's just too bad the state's don't allow adoptees or birthparents the right to heal, like Britain does in this film (with their open records). They add to the pain with their antiquated take on adoption. If you are so moved by this film, I encourage you to look into supporting an open records cause.
This review is from: Secrets and Lies (Import, All Regions) (DVD) The movie itself is great, one of my favorites. The DVD I purchased is of very poor quality. The video quality is poor, which makes me believe it's a pirated copy. The notes on the DVD case are in an Asian language. In addition, it has subtitles in an Asian language that cannot be disabled, thus the bottom portion of the screen is obscured by the subtitles. I'm very dissatisfied with the product overall, and feel my money was wasted. I should have searched for another seller.
Arguably this is Mike Leigh's most popular film as it obtained 5 Oscarnominations (BEST ACTRESS, BEST DIRECTOR, BEST PICTURE, BEST SUPPORTINGACTRESS and BEST ORIGINAL SCRIPT) and the Golden Palm in Cannes thatyear. I love Leigh's work very much and I previously watched VERA DRAKE(2004) and NAKED (1993), both brave and extraordinary. Still waiting towatch his recent pictures ANOTHER YEAR (2010) and HAPPY-GO-LUCKY(2008). The film itself burrows deep into the process of a successful blackorphan looking for her birth mother (who is surprisingly set to be alow-class single white woman), arresting its audience with its slowpace of unraveling the back-story of their skin difference and theirfamily. The warm-hearted tone is rare to behold in a Mike Leigh's film,and the happy ending ambiguously serves to leave its viewers afeel-good impression after the credits' rolling up. I must admit thatit is a smart move, and expands itself to a wider demography. Surely Leigh's poignant portrayal of ordinary citizens is his trumpcard and renders a platform to allow the excellent cast to showcasetheir kaleidoscopic capabilities and leave its audience mesmerized. theOscar-nominated mother-and-daughter pair (Brenda Blethyn and MarianneJean-Baptiste) is deservingly splendid, especially Brenda, I rank heras my win that year, the strength and suffer of her character is sotangible when she is on screen; also Timothy Spall fully exposes histalent for his chubby but charming role as the younger brother of themother.It is a wondrous work to make a film handling with a seeminglyoverreached story in such a fascinating way and even offer some strongaftertaste for us to ruminate, a bravo job!
After hearing so many very positive comments about this movie I finallysuccumbed and rented it. I had seen it on the shelves before but avoided itbecause the theme seemed so bleak.I should have trusted my instincts!Although the movie was well acted and the subject intriguing, thewell-crafted aspects did not overcome the labourious pace, disjointeddelivery, and sheer unpleasantness of almost all the main femalecharacters.This movie also leaves many questions unanswered and some aspects of theplot hanging; what was the purpose of the return of the man who Maurice hadbought the studio from? why was there almost no exploration of the effectsof the inter-racial aspect? why did it take over 2 hours to tell what wasbasically a simple tale?Surrounded by the crushingly depressing scenes of working class Britishlife, this LONG movie takes work to sit through and the glimpses ofintelligent film-making are too brief to save it.
I'd first seen Secrets & Lies back in 1996 and I was completely blown awayby the complexity of the story, the simplicity with which it was approached,the in depth analysis of each of the characters' inner world, the excellentperformances by each one of the actors, the direction, cinematography,all.... Brenda Blethyn is stunning and should have won the Oscar but greatacting is recognized no matter how many awards it earns.The story is original and is not confined to the meeting of an adopted womanand her real mother; it's much more than that. It's about humanrelationships and how they age in time. Although it was not easy to identifymyself with any of the characters, I couldn't help but sympathize with themall the way till the climax. And that's one of the reasons why this movie isa definite winner. A masterpiece.10
Upon watching this video, my intial impressions were that this was yet another dull family drama. But 2 minutes into the movie, I was proven most wrong. I was immediately enraptured by the heartfelt storyline and the intense atmosphere which seemed to convey a sense of realism, which made it seem all the more personal. The acting is absolutely superb, with all the cast (in particular Brenda Blethyn) portraying their roles with great emotion and sensitivity. One must wonder as to why this movie did not receive any Academy awards!!!Overall, I found this a thoroughly intriguing movie, with the upside being that I can watch it whenever I want on video!!Most highly recommended.
Mike Leigh's "Secrets & Lies" is one of the best movies I have ever seenandprobably the best acting-driven movie I have seen.Some people that have commented on this film concludes, that the film isweak, because the problems of the film today would'nt cause so much harm tothe characters in the story. I have to say, that people in fact can keepsecrets for each other that seems obvious for any one involved to figureoutfor themselves. It's easy for us to say it, because we're not in it.Therefore I believe, that Mike Leigh's handling of the story is absolutelyfabolous.The film gives you a great story, superb acting, interesting characters,emotional wrenching scenes, an intelligent blend of humor and seriousnessand a wonderful plausible ending.I recommend you to see it!
What begins as a fairly pedestrian paint by numbers British family dramabecomes anything but by the time the credits for Secrets and Lies begin toroll. Superbly acted and helped along by the big reveal of all the secretsand lies at the end the film continues to resonate in my mindtoday.Brenda Blethyn has never received much credit for her incredible portrayalof Cynthia Purley and most of that has to do with the highly over-ratedperformance of Francis McDormand as a fairly boring and typical NorthDakotan police officer in Fargo. While Emily Watson and Breaking the Wavesdeserved Academy Awards in 1996, Brenda Blethyn and Secrets and Lies come ina close second. There was something very real about Cynthia Purley'sworking class status and desire to fulfill her obligations to her newfounddaughter. Cynthia was by no means the sharpest tool in the shed and thescreenplay does an excellent job of conveying the fact that she pretty muchhas no clue who Hortense's father is and frankly has little idea aboutresponsibility in general. Her other daughter Roxanne is essentiallyCynthia at 21 with more of an attitude and it is little wonder that the twoare constantly at odds. The most refreshing aspect of Secrets and Lies is the refreshing bond thatis eventually shared between Cynthia (Brenda Blethyn) and Hortense (MarianneJean-Baptiste). These are two women who have absolutely nothing in commonsave their blood-types. Hortense is a well-educated Black optometrist witha sense of duty and responsibility while Cynthia is an under-educated Whitefactory worker with little idea about what correct behavior entails. Whatis wonderful is the little moments they share at an Italian restaurant wherethe dialogue is excellent. Remember when Cynthia ironically mentions thatshe wishes she could have been a mid-wife because she loves children to arather bewildered Hortense? And how sweet and adorable did Brenda Blethynplay Cynthia with her cute little voice and her adorable way of beingvirtually idiotic but forgivable at the same time. The woman gave herdaughter away but proves that she is a good mom in her own right despite herflaws. I could have done without the side story with Timothy Spall and hisinfertile wife because this is a film that is perfectly capable of beingcarried on the shoulders of Blethyn and Jean-Baptiste. There are somepowerful scenes with the often verbally and physically abusive Roxanne andmost delightful are the times when Roxanne is stunned to see her motherleaving for her "dates" with Hortense.An excellent rental that proves that American family drama doesn't hold acandle to the punch that the Brits pack.
Excellent movie. Drama and humor and although I hate the over-used term "heartwarming" this movie truly is that. A real family, with all the ordinary problems of real families and a twist that brings them all closer.
I've only seen a few Mike Leigh films. FOUR DAYS IN JULY(I think that wasthe title) was a film I would have liked except back when I saw it, I wasn'table to handle thick accents, so I couldn't understand it. LIFE IS SWEETand CAREER GIRLS are slight but highly enjoyable. NAKED features a terrificperformance by David Thewlis but has a surprisingly misogynist streak in it. But the best of all of them is SECRETS AND LIES. Like his other films,it's entirely improvised by the actors from an outline Leigh writes, butunlike some of those types of movies, you're never left saying, "Okay, cutalready!" You're too engrossed by the story, the emotions it brings up, andthe performances. Particularly those of Blethyn, Jean-Baptiste(especiallyher first scene in the adoption agency), and Spall. I could identify withall of them, and was caught up in what happened to them. And althoughthere's no neat resolution, there is some hope at the end. A greatmovie.