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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...

HARD LABOUR

An early BBC work, Hard Labour continues the understated, downbeat style of Bleak Moments in what may be Leigh's most poignant portrait, that of a middle-aged working class woman whose life is a ... More »

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 »

MEANTIME

Leigh's best-known film in Australia is the most sophisticated of his television-films and one of the great British films of the decade. Made not for the BBC but for Central Television, the film was ... More »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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