The film is the strongest when it is the most mysterious. Unfortunately, he begins to provide answers far too early.
[[Note: “The Secrets We Keep” is largely be at indoor movie theaters during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. While the purpose of this review goes deeper than binary recommendation to discuss the film’s merits as an artistic work in context of its time, we encourage our readers to continue exercising the latest safety guidelines from health authorities and consider them if and when you may decide to visit the cinema to watch this movie.]]
Maja is on high alert. While watching her child play in the local park, her attention was caught by a dark car driving down the street. Is she still like this, or did something set off the alarm in her head? Maternal instincts might be a source of worry behind her eyes, and actress Noomi Rapace is so good and the best part of her new movie that an anxious gaze is also enough to arouse our suspicion.
At the same time, our film buff instincts tell us that often nothing good comes from a mother telling her son to stay put! on that jungle gym as she leaves. So what is it that makes her so paranoid? Who is she afraid of being in this car that has left us now?
The Secrets We Keep, which the scene above dutifully opens with the tension and understated flair of director Yuval Adler, is one of those thrillers whose cards you wished you had kept close to his chest. Here’s a classic case of a movie capitalizing on its strengths far too early, thus transitioning from a compelling multi-layered story to one too eager to start peeling those layers before we can fully appreciate how many there are.
Judging by Nate Jones’ sleek and immaculate production design (whose work can also be seen in Cut Throat City, another 2020 release), it’s in the mid-20th century, shortly after the end of the war. At home with his family, her husband, Lewis, is played by Chris Messina, their child by young Jackson Dean Vincent.The thought of this mysterious car lingers in Majas’ mind, a cerebral itch that refuses to go away, little doesn’t matter how much she itches. . Or maybe refuse. We learn that she is Romanian and that she suffers from a persistent trauma linked to the war.
But the extent of this trauma is kept, yes, a secret to Lewisthat, until Maja changes from a borderline passive protagonist to a fiercely active protagonist, and brings a man home in the trunk of his car, tied up and gagged. She has convinced her victim, who says his name is Carl (Joel Kinnaman), is a former Nazi who was present at a particular time of torment for the Majas family some fifteen years ago. He insists he doesn’t know what she’s talking about. And the parameters of the movie suddenly change, what was, for a little while, a story keeping us on our toes with the mystery of Majas’ prospect becomes a morality game built of predictable beats that plant our feet more firmly on the ground. solid. It’s an unfortunate pivot, and almost fatal for a versatile film, if not for a spectacular performance by Raptors.
Better known as introverted and techno-savvy revenge Lisbeth Salandar of the Swedish adaptation of the Stieg Larssons Millenium trilogy, Rapace may not bring as much TNT to The Secrets We Keep as it does to her iconic role, but she does. is no less unpredictable. As Maja tries to shake off a confession from her kidnapped, her tightly-squeezed confidence slowly loosening with heart-wrenching self-doubt, Rapace effectively sketches her characters revisiting a haunted past with nervous energy and a exhausted internal dilemma. Western audiences might see something familiar in his performance of Desperation; his terrifying Caesarean from Hell in Ridley Scotts Prometheus remains one of the most upsetting sequences of a recent American blockbuster. Here the horrors are rooted in a story that may or may not have been disfigured by time.
The movie around Raptor, however, struggles to disguise its blandness. Its effective at the craft level, especially when it comes to composting deliciously conspiratorial John Paesanos score (like so much in the film, Paesanos’ contributions are most enticing in the opening act). But the tale of The Secrets We Keep (with a screenplay written by Adler and Ryan Covington) is let down by its search for ways to extend its premise to 100 minutes, which leads Maja to befriend the wife of Carl on the street to find more answers about his past. She tries to clearly justify her actions, but these elements are awkward, even with a solid Amy Seimetz for the ride as a wife and mother waiting for Carl to come home. Elsewhere, if you’re hoping this is a movie with a man tied up in the basement resisting the temptation of a dangerously untimely (read: perfectly timed) visit from a local cop, be prepared for being dissapointed.
The drama eventually shifts from occupying the space between the kidnapper / capture to creating a chasm between Maja and Lewis, and it’s here that The Secrets We Keep finds some dimension as a study of character on post-war identity. We visit scenes from Majas ‘past as she tried to decipher them, but there isn’t much epiphany that awaited us as much as those that waited for the epiphany to surface in Majas’ current dilemma.
Instead, it’s Rapace his paranoid sweat-streaked hair, his stature turned limp from the reluctance that continues to anchor our investment as Maja tries to slow the countdown down to psychological implosion, all longing for the faith of Lewis, who is unsure of what to believe. Adler and Covington continue to sidestep these implications with dilapidated focus. We wonder if Maja is seeking justice or closure seems like this should be their natural motivation, but the question eventually arises in the face of a rushed crescendo and muddled moral views. Have we just seen her run away from her past, accept it or face it?
“The Secrets We Keep” is rated R for violence, rape, nudity, speech, and brief sexuality.
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, Chris Messina, Amy Seimetz
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