Secrets & Lies - * * 1/2*

Director Mike Leigh manages to capture real life family dynamics in Secrets & Lies. Timothy Spall stars as a photographer whose family is strained to the breaking point. He and his wife, Monica (Phyllis Logan) have been strangely drifting apart. His older sister, Cynthia (Brenda Blethyn) struggles with her dour daughter, Roxanne (Clair Rushbrook). Unbeknownst to them, a stranger, Hortense (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) is about to enter their fragile web. Director Mike Leigh has the uncanny ability to create characters that seem real…and he does that here. You empathize and identify with many of the characters in Secrets & Lies. Timothy Spall is superb as the photographer caught in the middle, trying to hold his family together despite all the deceit and pain. The biggest problem with Secrets & Lies is its lack of a consistent direction… the film wanders too much. The film dallies into irrelevant situations such as several montages of Maurice’s photo shoots, or a visit by the prior owner of the photo shop that are cute…but don’t add anything to the story. In fact, when the end of the film comes around, it seems as if everything is forced to conclude at the same time, a marked contrast to the vague stumblings earlier on. As a result, the end of the film appears staged and contrived. If Secrets & Lies had as much passion for its storyline as it did its characters, it would be something to shout about. Unfortunately, it remains an interesting, yet unfocused, character study.

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