Sunday, November 23, 2008

"Secrets & Lies" (1996) - Movie Review

Watching Mike Leigh’s film is something every one viewing would have seen it in their family. It would be their mother, their uncle, their cousins talking back, going emotional in a flip of a second and embrace being the sun of this big wide solar system of family. Of me being unaware of the plethora of variety Timothy Spall has done in his career, this was a surprise. I have only seen him as the sleazy English man wandering as a virus and side kick for the villains in many films. Along with every other panache performances, Spall simply breaks us down in the party of people blurting truth and secrets as a hang over person throwing up. It is ugly but to be got over with to clean the system.

Leigh’s cameraman Dick Pope’s visual equipment clings on to the corners and doors of a crooked apartment. The dining table pushed in against the wall to have two members sitting opposite and not see eye to eye, the couch which seem to have helped consummate many of the sexual appetite and the doors that have been opened for surprises. It is in small, medium and large depending on the financial freedom of a person and in Leigh’s it is mostly on the middle class. Here it would be Cynthia (Brenda Blethyn) working in a factory with the earning paying her rent and smokes.

She has a daughter Roxanne (Claire Rushbrook) who hates her mother with a knife on her throat slicing with words, frowns and snubbing in that small apartment. She will be twenty one in couple of months as we see her Uncle Maurice (Timothy Spall) and Aunt Monica (Phyllis Logan) in their big house looking at the child portrait of Roxanne mentioning it wistfully. They have loved her as a child from their sighs and Monica has mothered her from her resentment towards Cynthia on certain things.

This is the family Hortense (Marianne Jean-Bapiste) is going to get in. After her mother’s demise, in the act of curiosity she begins to search for her biological mother. Cynthia is that and meeting her makes the people swivel in the ending drama. Every time a scene starts we are as if entering couple of people in middle of their conversations. Not that it sounds but it feels like that. People mentioning events in a push and stress on words and glances and we have no clue on the topic. As if we are in the dark of the truth, the thing bringing the enmity and love is not known. The histories are not explained because so it has been by each other.

And this despise between Cynthia and Monica not in the “never to see each other” relation but in the friendlier conversations sliding those remarks as easy and soft but painful to the extent not on the words rather on the secrecy of their loose leaving of sentences. The doubt and presumptions takes care of the rest. When Cynthia and Monica finally meet and Monica proudly presents her home of six bedrooms and interior decorations, Cynthia fuels up in that high pitched voice of her. What is that in between these two? It will be revealed and not the made up drama suspense but one we could see it coming. But what it is really is the love being shared off. Maurice the connecting factor of these two never really gets understood by each other. Roxanne becomes another end of the knot to deal with. Everything is out on the table in the end and Spall is astounding in it.

I do not know whether Brenda Blethyn changed her voice for this but I can only compare that voice to a tiny rat in an unnoticed corner of a room making sounds and movements. Not largely annoying but grows on as it grows too. She falls out flat in tears the moment she is slightly overwhelmed. She is the aunt we stay away from because she is up all our faces. The aunts who think a hug is the best thing to comfort regardless of the timing and the person’s inclination to it. She puts so many “darlin’, sweet hearts” that it soon becomes a rattling expression we would not want to hear at all. But she is the one who makes the favourite sweet with a sick cold after the cooking for ten people. She is the one who in those expressions means every bit of it. It is just that she picks the most awful worst time in the perfect right manner to ruin everything and follows it up with the abundance of unwanted love for the situation.

Leigh binds these elements together in a room and puts two poor people who have nothing to do with the family apart from being a boy friend of Roxanne (Lee Ross) and a secretary (Elizabeth Berrington) for Maurice. If I was in their shoes, I would move far away from this family. But the truth is it exists behind the apartments and a big house in us isn’t it? We want to run away because we do not need one another family to deal with. Leigh made his debut “Bleak Moments” with the title resonating in the screenplay and “Secrets & Lies” could have been named “Uncomfortable Moments”. But we have to face it and we have to sustain it because that is what the family is, “Secrets & Lies” and when it breaks out it is either mayhem or a chance to reconcile.

No comments: