Secrets And Lies (1996)

MIKE LEIGH

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBBB

France/United Kingdom, 1996.  Channel Four Films, CiBy 2000, Thin Man Films.  Screenplay by Mike Leigh.  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Academy Awards 1996.  Boston Film Critics Awards 1996.  Cannes Film Festival 1996.  Golden Globe Awards 1996.  Independent Spirit Awards 1996.  National Board of Review Awards 1996.  

Working from a script Mike Leigh wrote based on his performers’ improvisational work in rehearsals, actors Brenda Blethyn and Marianne Jean-Baptiste come as close to true-to-life acting as can be expected; you might sometimes feel like you’re watching a documentary. Blethyn plays Cynthia, an aging, working-class white woman who is found by Hortense (Jean-Baptiste), the black daughter she had given up for adoption at birth years before. Unlike the usual murky British kitchen-sink dramas, this one has warmth, talent and beauty to the nth degree, plus a fantastic supporting cast with stories of their own: Cynthia’s brother and sister-in-law (, ) can’t have children, and Cynthia’s daughter Roxanne () is unhappy and resentful about everything that’s going on, especially with her birthday coming up. It all comes out in a climactic, all-stops-out, tear-inducing dinner scene in the third act.  Lesley Manville is terrific as the social worker who helps Hortense find her mother.

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