Secrets and Lies (1996)

Secrets & Lies
Written and directed by Mike Leigh
(number 294)

I sort of knew going in that this was going to be one of those awkwardly sad dramas. I’ve heard people refer to it before, I’ve heard people groan in reference to it. Well, I wasn’t..disappointed? This movie is a long, unflinching look at people who’s lives are sad, small and disconnected – even from the people they love. It’s so awkward, it’s so depressing.

The plot is around a woman tracking down her birth mother, getting to know her family and how very dysfunctional it is.

Cynthia is the cornerstone of the movie and absolutely the saddest character, she reminds me of one of the messed up mums in a Jacqueline Wilson book. She’s so afraid of everything – afraid of her own feelings, afraid of being left alone by the people around her, afraid of the world around her.

The party sequence is so horrible. It’s like watching one of the most awkward family gatherings in the world, and knowing most of what’s about to happen and dreading it. Dreading it so much.

Does it make me love the people? I love Hortense, because she’s so lovely and sweet. I love Maurice because he’s trying so hard and is so painfully repressed, he tries his best, he really does. The slow build of the connection between Hortense and Cynthia is very sweet.

It reminds me of the movies I would go see in the film festival without thinking too much about them. The movies would be slice of lifes. Little true stories about people’s ordinary lives and how messed up emotionally those ordinary lives can be. The pain and the pressure and the little hurts family members can dish out to each other. It’s not a fun thing to watch, it’s not a popcorn movie, but maybe it teaches us a little about who we are and how we deal with the people around us.

Bechdel test: Yes, lots of times. Roxanne and Cynthia talk a lot, then Hortense and Cynthia talk lots of times. We’re all good in this department. It just keeps on passing right through the movie: the bonus when all but one of your main ensemble cast are women.

Best line:

Maurice: Secrets and lies! We’re all in pain! Why can’t we share our pain? The three people I love the most in all the world hate each other’s guts and I’m stuck in the middle of it!

State of Mind: Honestly happy that this movie had a happy ending, I was so sure it was going to be only depressing and awkward, but the very end was just like the sun coming out after a horrid emotional storm of truth and pain. Thank goodness for that. I can’t see myself watching this movie again in a hurry though, so awkward. So cringey.

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