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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...

NUTS IN MAY

A 'post-hippie' couple take a camping holiday in Devon, determined to escape the bustle of the city. Leigh's brilliantly observed comedy will have you loathing the officious husband within minutes ... More »

THE KISS OF DEATH

This tale of young love focuses on the romantic ebb of love in the life of a rather shambling undertaker's assistant. ... 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 »

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 »

FOUR DAYS IN JULY

Two couples, one Catholic, one Protestant, are near neighbours in Belfast. They have nothing in common, save the fact that both women are expecting their first babies, which will be born on the same ... 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 »

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