Secrets & Lies Reviews
Brenda Blethyn should have won the Oscar for Best Actress, NOT Frances McDormand! She gives a devastating, emotional, and stunning performance. A must see!
Leigh's modern classic captured a brace of Oscar nominations but went home empty handed in the face of The English Patient's near clean sweep. Even Blethyn's Cannes-winning performance lost out to Frances McDormand's Fargo turn (hard to challenge this decision, although in any other year the brilliant Blethyn would have deserved to win). The film eventually racked up a considerable number of awards, its Oscar success aside.
The story, every bit as believable and real as the rest of Leigh's work, centres on a woman, Cynthia Purley (Blethyn ), whose mid-life crisis is further exacerbated by the appearance on the scene of the daughter she gave away at birth, the wonderfully named Hortense Cumberbatch (Baptiste) - a young, beautiful, professional black woman who causes a few eyebrows to be raised in the family, and forces Cynthia to come to terms with her past.
Alternating between high comedy, scathing one-liners (Blethyn telling daughter Rushbrook she has a face like a "slapped arse" is a moment to treasure) and tear-jerking poignancy, with Spall, Rushbrook and Baptiste all offering strong support, this is nothing short of superb.
Verdict A genuine hit for Mike Leigh, Secrets And Lies has the coarse grain of real life, sympathetically and affirmingly fashioned.
I never knew of Mike Leigh's famous 'improvisation-acting' technique prior to watching this, and the more I look back, the more I realize that's what allowed me to fall in love with the film in the first place.
We're faced with characters so natural and substantial, they could easily be people in our lives. They face completely human dramas, things like keeping secrets, coping with death and mediating between relatives who don't get along - and with these elements coming together perfectly, the story is told from beginning to end without needing to catch a breath. Every scenario tells us more about each character, each dilemma, and in doing so, allows us to care more how everything turns out.
I've joked that there's enough content in 'Secrets & Lies' that it could've been a miniseries, but I'm glad it's this instead. I'm convinced this is Mike Leigh's masterpiece and it's definitely one of my favorite movies of all time.