Secrets & Lies - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Secrets & Lies Reviews

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September 3, 2017
It's hard to like an overlong film full of people you'd normally avoid with irritating pommy mannerisms accompanied by godawful background music. Parts of the movie elicit empathy but not worth the pain without a fast forward button.
December 21, 2016
A compelling film, anchored by brilliant acting by Brenda Blethyn and Timothy Spall. Voyeuristic - you're always on the outside looking in, though the secretary serves as the audience surrogate.
½ September 3, 2016
An absolutely brilliant British drama that feels pulled right out of real life.
½ August 18, 2016
I thought I might liked more the film since it had a very good story and the performances were very good, yet I didn't connect with some of the characters and the story was different from what I expected. Still, it was entertaining and Mike Leigh did a great job writing and directing.
~August 18, 2016~
March 19, 2016
Secrets & Lies finds writer-director Mike Leigh at his very best combining a piercing and realistic script with his sensitive and heartwrenching grip that is brought to life by an extremely talented cast - led by a powerhouse tour de force performance from Brenda Blethyn.
½ February 17, 2016
Secrets & Lies is an outstanding film! It is at times a bit slow, but I loved the dialogue here with some scenes being so amazing in their long takes and real feel. Everything here is realistic, the problems of the characters are so relatable and the film succeeds as a drama because of those reasons. It is a heartbreaking and heartwarming film at the same time with Brenda Blethyn delivering one of the best female performances of the decade. Such a terrific movie.
September 27, 2015
Good acting, good story. But you might get annoyed by the mother.
September 12, 2015
Jaw dropping performance from Brenda Blethyn. This film has an abundance of the wit, drama, and emotion that you would expect from Mike Leigh. Good film.
August 18, 2015
My favourite film ever...
½ August 16, 2015
Najvise volijem obiteljske nedjeljno popodnevne dramice.
½ July 9, 2015
With his signature penetrative dialogue and a plethora of outstanding players giving extremely elaborate performances, Leigh makes the hidden inner workings of an extended family both poignant and painful, and adds another piece of honest, ambitious filmmaking to his body of work.
May 31, 2015
Mike Leigh's my kind of filmmaker. This is a man who just loves people, especially the ones who have a lot of emotional baggage. But what separates the artists from the hacks - from stuff like Secrets & Lies from a soap, and the characters here could easily be that - is taste and talent. Leigh has good taste and he knows how to steer the ship when it comes to getting a group of actors together and getting them to reveal things through the characters. The love for these people comes through in the filmmaking, in the time given for things like a few good shots that lasts for minutes (not to where it becomes obvious, but that there's no *need* for a cut), and the deep range of the human experience: compassion, envy, spite, forgiveness, love, hate (though how much these two last is hard to say), and understanding are among those in the film.

It even could've been something close to a sappy/saccharine Guess Who's Coming to Dinner scenario, given that it's essentially about a black woman who discovers her biological mother is white. We never see the father - no need to, it was one of those bad moments in teenage years that isn't easily forgotten, but it's been put into a corner of memory for Brenda Blethyn's Cynthia at this point in her life in this story. But race isn't at all a big issue, and that's one of the first strong things to know about this film - at the same time, the filmmaker is aware of what he's putting out there, and hopes (or maybe knows) the audience will not only buy it, they'll look to what is much deeper: the pain of loss of that mother/daughter connection, but all of that other history each character has. What I mean to say is that race is not unacknowledged here, but it's not the primary focus.

What you get in Secrets & Lies is the story of people at work in their relationships and their everyday lives. The people in this film are relatively working class - perhaps doing a little better than not are Hortense, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, is an Optometrist, and Maurice, Timothy Spall, the brother of Cynthia, runs a photography studio - but we see that they have the work that they do and the people they're close to. That's it, and that's what counts for Leigh. But of course the title itself is not to be taken lightly; the structure is kind of built upon it, of what secrets/lies will be revealed through the due course of the film, even those I didn't think really that deeply about. And yet, as a great dramatist, it's right there in front of me, in the subtext of Leigh's scenario and in what the characters say as much as the up-front stuff (Maurice's marriage for example).

There's time taken to set up the characters, and I loved that about the film as well. A soap might just dive right into the 'Who is your birth mother' plot-line, or maybe after so much uninteresting time setting up people, to the point of who cares. But we know who they are with just their behavior - Cynthia's fragile form, her daughter's 'Leave me alone mum!' manner, and of course Maurice, who as a photographer has to try to make people happy. Some of those montages, by the way, are simply delightful, full of the kind of empathy that can be seen from a filmmaker in just flashes: even as they're just sketches of people, they feel fully realized, albeit once or twice as jokes. So that when Maurice does this, and then goes home to his wife and the ok-but-tense relationship there, we know where his head may be at. Also interesting is the fact that we aren't shown that Maurice and Cynthia are brothers right away - why are their stories connected, if at all - until he comes over to her house and that itself is a tremendous scene.

This is the sort of cinematic experience that had me on the edge of my seat merely by the emotional stakes of those involved. How the family may or may not find out isn't as crucial as how it will affect them, how we might (or just will) be affected by them. Blethyn may be shedding a lot of tears here, but she's playing a damaged, depressed person, and it never comes into question why she acts the way she does, and Leigh, as with his other films (especially the even more uncomfortable-in-a-good-way Naked) never judges. Other characters may do that to others, especially as things rile high to the surface, but he won't. You want to know what happens to these people once the film ends, and Leigh leaves you wanting more, genuinely so, not in any cheap way. A lovely, harrowing experience this is.
May 17, 2015
Brenda Blethyn is the main reason this film is so interesting. Life the film itself, life is brutal but we have to find ways to make peace with it and make the most out of what we have. A surprisingly believable and realistic film filled with magic and powerful moments.
½ May 14, 2015
So good and well worth 94%.Great acting by all the cast.
April 7, 2015
Should be emotional, but instead is boring and irritating.

The central plot of Secrets and Lies had heaps of potential: a goes in search of and is reunited with her birth mother. That in itself would make for a great character-driven, emotional movie. Throw in the intrigue that the daughter is mixed-race/black and the mother is white and it adds even more potential.

Unfortunately, the finished product doesn't live up to this potential. It drags along throughout and never gets going. Mike Leigh likes to start his movies slowly and build momentum, but this doesn't even get out of first gear.

Plus, just when you thought the movie was already too long, you have random, pointless scenes that add nothing to the movie, eg the when the previous owner of the photography studio comes back.

Throw into the mix the fact that Brenda Blethyn's character, Cynthia, has to be one of the more irritating characters in movie history: constantly whining, screeching and nagging, interspersed with random crying.

Unfortunately, she is in just about every scene, so it's like constant nails-across-a-chalkboard, all through the movie.

The remainder of the cast don't do much to help the movie, either. Timothy Spall and Phyllis Logan are incredibly dull, or, at least, the characters they played were.

There are some good moments, however. Marianne Jean-Baptiste gives a great performance as Hortense. I found her character the only likable and engaging one in the entire movie.

The photography scenes in the studio were quite funny and/or sweet too.
February 27, 2015
edit it down (aka take half of the Blethyn crying scenes) into a 1hr 15min and you've got a great little movie... as it is, far too long winded.
½ February 12, 2015
A total powerhouse performances and strong story. Emotional drama with nearly peak. How life of an English family is depicted in the movie is truely master work. Best part of watching it was the performances, lead by striking Brenda Blethyn , who through out the movie was remarkable in her Oscar worthy work.
½ December 8, 2014
A fantastic combination of script and actor(s). I was devastated and delighted in equal measure. It seems like a lot to process, at first. But Mike Leigh's masterful, restrained control makes it all work.
Doc T.
Super Reviewer
September 7, 2014
'Secrets & Lies' is a literary piece of original work in cinema, showcasing director-writer Mike Leigh's unrivaled style of storytelling, that is as much a human comedy as it is a high quality drama.

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.
August 9, 2014
Like watching a documentary about interpersonal and family relationships, instead of a work of fiction. The entire cast is extraordinary and Mike Leigh proves why he's one of the most celebrated contemporary directors.
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