Secrets & Lies is the only film that is guaranteed to make me cry every single time that I see it. Writer and director Mike Leigh has crafted a perfect film, with vibrant characters and real dialogue. Mike Leigh is a noted British director whose other films include the intense Vera Drake and the wonderfully funny Happy-Go-Lucky. His films are created without an original script, he builds the dialogue with the actors with the characters developed. This creates some very wonderful and emotional scenes in the film, especially a heartbreaking scene between the two leading actresses that was unscripted and done on one take. The film stars Brenda Blethyn as Cynthia Purley, a woman whose family is so torn up by secrets and lies. This performance won Brenda Blethyn the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival, the BAFTA award and an Academy Award nomination (the Oscar went to Frances McDormand for Fargo). The film is a beautiful and touching story of how years of secrets can tear a family apart and how difficult it can be to rebuild the trust. Anyone who has ever had even an argument with a family member will be touched by this astonishing film.
Cynthia Purley is factory worker and single mother living in a shitty apartment in London with her soon-to-be twenty-one year old daughter Roxanne (Claire Rushbrook). Her brother Maurice (Timothy Spall) lives with his wife Monica (Phyllis Logan) in a new house in an affluent neighbourhood. He rarely sees his sister, mostly due to Monica's tense relationship with Cynthia. Hortense (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) has just lost her adoptive mother and has decided to find her birth mother, Cynthia. Roxanne has never been told that her mother had a baby when she was sixteen, and this fact angers Monica because she believes that Roxanne has every right to know. As Cynthia and Hortense attempt to build their relationship, years of secrets and lies are revealed. This story of wounded hearts leads to a painful climax during Roxanne's twenty-first birthday party.
Secrets & Lies tells the story of a family who has spent so much time apart that they are unable to function as a family. As an audience we are able to fully relate to the characters on the screen because they are real. These characters have faults and are not perfect, and we watch this film, often stunned, as more and more secrets are revealed. It is refreshing to watch a film where the characters act and react in a natural manner, in ways that we would react. The acting is impeccable, each actor brings commitment and passion to the role. Brenda Blethyn's performance as the fragile Cynthia Purley is completely deserving of any and all accolades, and her performance alone is enough to rank Secrets & Lies number two on my list.