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The Secret Life of Words

The Secret Life of Words (2006)



Average Rating: 6.3/10
Reviews Counted: 38
Fresh: 27 | Rotten: 11

The Secret Life of Words is a slow, mannered drama, but with a revelatory and powerful ending that rewards the patient viewer.


Average Rating: 5.5/10
Critic Reviews: 16
Fresh: 10 | Rotten: 6

The Secret Life of Words is a slow, mannered drama, but with a revelatory and powerful ending that rewards the patient viewer.



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Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 7,140

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Movie Info

Writer-director Isabel Coixet's (My Life Without Me) beautifully wrought chamber drama The Secret Life of Words opens on Hanna (Sarah Polley), a laconic, backward and introverted girl in her early '30s, quietly drowning in her own isolation. Partially deaf from working an untold number of hours in a loud factory, Hanna must wear a hearing aid. When her supervisors -- deeply concerned about the four years that have lapsed in Hanna's life without a break -- force her to go on holiday for a month,


Art House & International, Drama

Isabel Coixet

May 8, 2007

Strand Releasing - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (43) | Top Critics (20) | Fresh (27) | Rotten (11) | DVD (9)

The claustrophobic and artificial atmosphere of the setting is unfortunately matched by the equally artificial drama.

December 30, 2006
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic IconTop Critic

What pleasure there is to be wrung from the exceptionally banal The Secret Life of Words lies in the harsh, unforgiving beauty (lyrically shot by Jean-Claude Larrieu) and wonderfully strange social life of the isolated rig.

December 22, 2006 Full Review Source: L.A. Weekly
L.A. Weekly
Top Critic IconTop Critic

There may be no young actress today better at embodying a blend of wounded innocence and stoic pride than Sarah Polley. In The Secret Life of Words, she has a part worthy of her gifts.

December 21, 2006 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Though I continue to have strong reservations about the stylistic abstractions in Ms. Coixet's narrative, the performances given by Ms. Polley, Mr. Robbins and Ms. Christie take me a long way in accepting and recommending the whole package.

December 20, 2006
New York Observer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Like Ceylan -- like many a fine director -- Coixet has made her film less as a drama than as the traversal of a state of mind, a mood.

December 15, 2006
The New Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Un parcours vers une existence un peu plus normale que Coixet illustre avec tact et simplicité en tirant merveilleusement profit de l'immense talent de ses deux interprčtes

January 29, 2010 Full Review Source: Panorama

Heartache is guaranteed. And so it is in The Secret Life of Words, a strangely beautiful film about an ugly memory that Hanna (Sarah Polley) carries for the rest of her life

July 25, 2008 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

Can't resist the meaningful political backstory that will transform her characters into symbols--that is, into ventriloquist dummies rattling off humdrum rhetoric.

May 3, 2007 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central
Film Freak Central

Can't hold the weight of its own pretensions.

March 2, 2007 Full Review Source: Las Vegas Weekly
Las Vegas Weekly

The film succeeds mainly as a story of the connective, regenerative tissue between words and silence on the level strength of its listeners.

February 14, 2007 Full Review Source: Reeler

Coixet's screenplay may be a little slow in spots and someof the supporting characters are not very well drawn, but the spotlight is on the two leads, and both Robbins and Polley come through. There's some twee voiceover that mars the film's beginning and

January 11, 2007 Full Review Source: Murphy's Movie Reviews
Murphy's Movie Reviews

Out in the north sea--no harbor for pain both physical and psychological--except what contact with the right human being may provide in the way of a cure.

December 27, 2006 Full Review Source: Cinema Signals
Cinema Signals

Making it work onscreen requires a Herculean effort from the actors, a task to which Polley and Robbins -- as well as their supporting cast -- are more than adequately suited.

December 22, 2006 Full Review Source: Boxoffice Magazine
Boxoffice Magazine

This thing is very, very deep. So deep in fact that getting the bends is a distinct possibility.

December 22, 2006
Greenwich Village Gazette

Director Isabel Croixet creates an intriguing, enclosed world aboard the ship

December 19, 2006 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

Meditative, slow-paced examination of how post-traumatic stress syndrome affects two troubled people who connect on a windswept oil rig in the Irish Sea.

December 19, 2006 Full Review Source:

A series of conversations that are sometimes clever and sometimes feel like screenwriting exercises about the details of life, but are always well acted.

December 15, 2006 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

Far from feeling that we've been hoodwinked into watching a film with a strong social message, we can only marvel at how eloquently and incontrovertibly it states its case.

December 15, 2006 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Audience Reviews for The Secret Life of Words

A worthwhile film but that doesn't mean that it's an enjoyable movie viewing experience.
April 4, 2012
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

This very calm, quiet drama tells the story of a young laconic woman working at a factory without having much of a life, being forced to take some time off for vacation where she happens to overhear an oil platform being in need of a nurse. Instead of relaxing she takes care of a burn victim (Tim Robbins) who is is slowly recovering from an accident there. As she is slowly making contact with her flirty patient and the minimum crew there, she carefully seems to come out from her shell. Sarah Polley is really convincing as tortured soul with a dark secret, that is going to get revealed in the end, in a pretty gloomy and almost painful story to listen to. The fact that the movie doesn't end in despair right there but takes the tale a little further, where hope is still an option, makes it really rewarding in the end. Fine acting, an interesting and moving story, an all around convincing romance / drama.
February 16, 2009

Super Reviewer

Tim Robbins had great dialog in this film (until the ending). A burn victim on an oil rig in the ocean, who falls in love with his war-refugee nurse Sarah Polley who shows him her cut up boobs. Turned out to be pretty great.
February 4, 2008
Curtis Lilly

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • Das geheime Leben der Worte (DE)
  • The Secret Life of Words (UK)
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