Secrets and Lies

Director/Writer:Mike Leigh
Director of Photography:Dick Pope
Editor:John Gregory
Music:Andrew Dickson
Production Designers:Alison Chitty and Georgina Lowe
Producer:Simon Channing-Williams
October Films; R; 142 minutes
Cast:Brenda Blethyn, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Claire Rushbrook, Timothy Spall and Phyllis Logan

Whether seeking it or not, Secrets and Lies, which won the Palm d'Or at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, is certain to bring wide recognition and commercial success to filmmaker Leigh, who until now has enjoyed only a cult following in the United States. (He is well established in his native England.) As in his other films, Leigh's methods reap stellar performances from his actors. They give him their all, and he expects nothing less. The plot of Secrets and Lies sounds sentimental and soap opera-like, but it couldn't be farther from either. Its immediacy is both direct and poignant. Cynthia Rose Purley (Blethyn) is a big-hearted, down-and-out cockney with delicate family ties. She barely speaks to her daughter, Roxanne, who is destined for the same working-class existence, and her brother, Maurice (Spall), keeps his distance per order of his snobby wife (Logan). Cynthia gets a phone call from a woman, Hortense (Jean-Baptiste), claiming to be her long-lost daughter and is catapulted into a state of weepy disbelief. When convinced Hortense's claim is genuine, Cynthia agrees to meet her daughter, who, by the way, is black. Cynthia and Hortense develop a warm relationship, but Cynthia is hesitant to share the news with her family. At Roxanne's 21st birthday party, Cynthia introduces Hortense as her coworker at the factory. The film builds up to the disclosure of the truth, which Hortense handles with enviable decorum.

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