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SECRETS AND LIES

UK, 1996 (MIFF 1996, Contemporary World Cinema )

Director: Mike Leigh

On one of those rare occasions when the Cannes jury gets it right, the inimitable Mike Leigh garnered this year's Palme d'Or (Best Film), the International Critics Prize and the Best Actress Award (Brenda Blethyn) topping the success of Naked( 1993).

After the death of her adoptive mother, Hortense, an educated young black woman sets out to track down her natural mother .To her surprise she discovers her parent, Cynthia, is an unmarried white woman who lives unhappily with her acknowledged daughter Roxanne. Over­coming their initial uncertainty, they begin to develop a warm relationship, however things go awry when Cynthia tries to introduce Hortense into the troubled world of her own family.

Here Leigh extends his now familiar interest in dissecting families, relationships, work and the emotional machinery that makes us tick. Raw nerves are painfully exposed, silences unbearably uncomfortable, pretentions explod­ed: but unlike the dark and desperate tone of Naked, Secrets and Lies' final reconciliatory moments suggest that everyone involved will be better for the experience.

The poignancy and acuity of Leigh's observations and the cast's remarkable ensemble work reach a level of emotional recognition other films could only dream about.

In Cannes, Leigh accepted the Palme d'Or 'In the name of all independent spirits who make films about real people, real life and all the things that really matter" As usual, he got it right. (TB)

See also...

GROWN UPS

No Mike Leigh film better illustrates the unique blend of comedy and drama that have come to be a trademark of his work than Grown Ups, which moves from heart-rendering pathos to hilarious, chaotic ... More »

The Short and Curlies

In between serving cough pastels and contraceptives at the chemist's, Joy dreams of the perfect man. Over at the hairdresser's, Betty has the same pre occupation for herself and her daughter Charlene ... More »

LIFE IS SWEET

Mike Leigh's latest delivers all that we have come to expect from this unique filmmaker, and then some. It's at once raucously funny while often blindingly insightful, a natural development upon his ... More »

BLEAK MOMENTS

Adapted from his 1970 stage production, Bleak Moments not only represents Mike Leigh's feature film debut but also establishes the characteristic method of mood of his output, a stylistic signature ... More »

ABIGAIL'S PARTY

The appalling Beverley (played by Alison Steadman, a Leigh regular) has arranged a small party amongst a few neighbours, which provides the perfect opportunity to display her vast array of cultural ... More »

HOME SWEET HOME

Leigh's melancholy variation on 'Postman's Knock' centres on three postmen whose domestic lives on a suburban estate are more loosely (and painfully) entangled than they realise. The sexual conquests ... More »

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