Secrets and Lies

Bomb Rating: 

Though being Mr. Cranky requires an almost superhuman amount of stamina, I have to confess that this film broke me. You see, the main character, Cynthia (Brenda Blethyn)is a whiny, lower class English woman who nags and whines and never shuts up. She has a daughter, Roxanna (Claire Rushbrook), who sweeps streets and together they nag and whine at each other. When Cynthia discovers she has a black daughter, Hortense (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), Cynthia seizes the opportunity to whine some more.

At this point, I decided the whining had become too much to bear. I noisily leapt from my seat and began to pace briskly around the theater, searching for someone, anyone with an accent just so I could beat the crap out of him. After a half-dozen frantic circuits, I failed to find any evidence of accents in the increasingly wary and watchful crowd, so I turned to the screen and bellowed "Get out of the house and do something with your life, you bloody English git!" The Mormon theater manager, ironically, kicked me out not because of any great love for the English, but because he insisted I had used the word "tit."

When I returned for the next show, I realized director Mike Leigh was just setting everything up so that he could justify the title. Instead of telling her brother, Maurice (Timothy Spall), or his wife, Monica (Phyllis Logan), or Roxanna about Hortense's true genealogy, Cynthia slinks around with her in an effort to claim some overdue mother/daughter bonding. At this point, Leigh misses a golden opportunity to break new ground in cinema -- had Cynthia simply whined her way into the path of an explosive runaway bus with Keanu Reeves on it, Leigh could have turned the entire English melodrama genre on its head.

At the end of the film, when all the secrets and lies are laid bare, it's tough not to picture Mike Leigh giggling like a little schoolgirl and patting himself on the back (or wherever) for being so damn clever. The spectre was so unappetizing, I leapt up and began pacing the theater again.

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