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

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Movie Info

A solitary nurse (Sarah Polley) bonds with a badly burned patient (Tim Robbins) who survived an accident on an oil rig.

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News & Interviews for The Secret Life of Words

Critic Reviews for The Secret Life of Words

All Critics (39) | Top Critics (15) | Fresh (27) | Rotten (12)

  • Quote not available.

    September 22, 2007 | Rating: 2/6 | Full Review…
  • The claustrophobic and artificial atmosphere of the setting is unfortunately matched by the equally artificial drama.

    December 30, 2006
  • 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
  • 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 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • 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
  • 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
  • Quote not available.

    September 22, 2007 | Rating: 2/6 | Full Review…
  • The claustrophobic and artificial atmosphere of the setting is unfortunately matched by the equally artificial drama.

    December 30, 2006
  • 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
  • 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 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • Un parcours vers une existence un peu plus normale que Coixet illustre avec tact et simplicit en tirant merveilleusement profit de l'immense talent de ses deux interprtes

    January 29, 2010 | Rating: 7/10 | Full Review…
  • 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…

Audience Reviews for The Secret Life of Words

  • Apr 04, 2012
    Sometimes people go through great amounts of pain and unbearable suffering, it takes a lot of time for them to be able to heal and go on with their lives. This movie helps us to understand that process and connect with other people's pain. It does it in a very slow pace, but that's the greatness and beauty of this movie. It gives us time to understand what these people have been through and shows how important it is that we do not forget. This movie is not for people who are not sensitive to think about what happened in Yuguslavia' some years ago and what the human cruelness can reach in war times.It also shows that there is a place in a world for those that have suffered, hurt, lonely, shy. And I am grateful for this movie, it shows that there is so much more in life than words, and that we all carry a rich universe in us to be explored if we love and are loved no matter who we are and what life has put us through. Simply beautiful and a must to see.
    Daisy M Super Reviewer
  • Apr 04, 2012
    Not being much of a fan of Polley, this movie breaks all the rules. Wonderful story and fabulous acting (especially Polley). The way it slowly tells the stories of both Hanna and Josef and their journey together just mixes so well. FABULOUS!
    Leigh R Super Reviewer
  • Sep 17, 2011
    I loved this movie, but I can see how its not or everyone. The exceptionally subdued action serves two purposes. It is required to focus the audience on the very understated revelation of the action and it mirrors the hidden secrets that both Polley's and Robbin's characters are hiding. The opening ten minutes without dialogue follow Polley (without dialog through her routing working in a loud twine factory and eating the same meal (chicken, apple and rice) every day without any personnel interaction. The sound goes silent for a minute and another employee taps her shoulder and she turns up her hearing aid revealing her near complete hearing loss. Her attention is piqued when she overhears a man trying to find out how to get a nurse to live on an oil rig for two weeks that is shutdown after a fatal fire that leave Robbins gravely burned not stable enough for transport. She surprisingly explains that she is a nurse. I really enjoyed picking up on the little tidbits of information and the study of what is not said in furtherance of the action. The lack of subtly after the climax was a little let down, but over all one of the most enthralling natural character studies I've seen in a long time.
    Bill C Super Reviewer
  • Feb 04, 2008
    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.
    Curtis L Super Reviewer

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