Friday, September 30, 2016

#583: Secrets & Lies

Directed by: MIKE LEIGH
1996, TSPDT Rank #679

Secrets & Lies was my introduction to the work of Mike Leigh, and it is a film of immense emotional intensity - in which the small, unspoken pains and uncertainties of each of its characters come together to form a powerful, focused emotional whole. This is a film about insular struggles and deceptions within a British family, and it is largely carried by its excellent ensemble cast - with each actor lending a deep sense of detail and feeling to their respective characters, so that each characters' emotions reverberate into the other characters' scenes and lend meaning to all of the other actors' performances. This kind of cooperative acting goes a long way in making the characters believable as family members - a difficult feat which can be easily taken for granted, especially if it is done well. Leigh's deliberate directing style perfectly complements the actors' performances, and unflinchingly leads the viewer through the film's many uncomfortable, and sometimes painful, moments - with a visual style in which characters are often situated either at an intimate, conversational angle with the viewer or side by side with each other, so that the viewer can see both characters' reactions in real time. The inevitable racial undertones (a black woman discovers that her birth mother is white) are ever-present throughout the film, but they usually remain in the background, with the exception of one key scene. Otherwise, the focus remains on how the family members relate to each other, as family. Most importantly, Leigh manages to put every member of the family on equal footing with one another, and this, along with the deeply felt nature of the film, is what ultimately makes the film worthwhile viewing.

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