THREE STARS – Thought-provoking
Mike Leigh’s new film “Secrets & Lies” presents a very compelling argument for telling the truth. Set within a troubled family in England, “Secrets and Lies” is a study of the consequences of immorality. The weaving together of the choices, tragedies, disappointments and fears create a fabric with rich texture.
Although some today are attempting to redefine morality and set aside the guidance of such ancient codes as the Bible’s Ten Commandments, the consequences suffered in our relationships reveal the foolishness of such a move.
There are some ways of acting which simply destroy an individual or a family. Those actions include unfaithfulness, violence, envy and lies. If we decide to live a life contrary to the Bible’s guidance that such ways are wrong, we only reap a harvest of pain. No amount of redefining morality will change the results.
But if we confess our wrongs and humbly ask for forgiveness, then healing can begin.
The central character is a 42 year old woman named Cynthia (Brenda Blethyn). Having given birth to a daughter 26 years earlier which she gave up for adoption, her daughter now wants to connect with her as her birth mother. This connection becomes the beginning of healing for the family.
This is often the experience of those whose secrets are exposed. Like cancers which overtake the health of a physical body, secrets and lies have an insidious impact upon the soul of the family. The energy required to hide the truth or cover the sin saps the strength of the family. The walls which conceal a secret are the very same walls that keep others out of the intimate places of our hearts. The destruction caused by our secrets and lies is in the increasing isolation we experience from one another.
Medicating her isolation with alcohol, Cynthia suffers it the most. Not only has she kept secret her daughter she gave up for adoption, she has also kept secret the identity of her second daughter’s father. The result of keeping that a secret is the producing of an extremely unhappy daughter named Roxanne (Clair Rushbrook).
The real strength of the film is in the complexity of the characters. The pain of Roxanne is clearly not only the result of Cynthia’s rather intrusive and hysterical parenting, but also of her own repetition of her mother’s secrecy concerning her sexual relationships. As you observe her pathos, you cannot help but feel both repulsion and empathy for her pain.
A corollary theme is the destructiveness of the secret of pathos. Cynthia’s brother Maurice (Timothy Spall) and his wife Monica, who have been trying to have children for fifteen years. Rather than share their pain in being unable to conceive, they conspire together to keep their disappointment a secret. This secret creates an envy in Monica for Cynthia’s children, while Cynthia’s envies Monica’s money and expensive home. This mutual envy nearly destroys the family and puts Maurice clearly in the middle.
It is into this familial tension that Hortense arrives. As a way of amplifying the powerful disruption of her coming, Hortense is black and the family is white. But this racial difference really has little to do with the need of the family to be open and truthful with each other.
Cynthia blurts out a drunken revelation of Hortense’s identity to the family at Roxanne’s 21st birthday party. The result of such honesty is a painful catharsis in which everyone begins to relate with uncharacteristic truthfulness.
This is the most powerful moment of the film. Although the family predictably lives in spiritual isolation having no help from a church or counselor and must therefore find their way alone, the message is clearly given that they are on their way to healing.
For those who live with dark secrets which are haunting their souls and the souls of their family, “Secrets and Lies” is a call to truth and wholeness.
Such a call is also in intuitive agreement with the Bible. For not only does the Bible teach the Ten Commandments to help us avoid committing sin, but the Bible also teaches that if we “confess our sin,” that such truthfulness will begin a process of finding forgiveness for our sin and being cleansed of all that would harm us.