“Why can’t we share our favorite films?”

Gosh, I love Secrets and Lies (1996).

I’ve had the DVD for weeks now, but it was only last night that my wife and I finally got around to watching it; it was the first time she had ever seen it, but I had described it to her so often that watching it for the first time must have been, for her, a little like watching it the second or third time, for me; e.g., because she knew that a certain character is incapable of having children, a fact that is not revealed until the film’s final scenes, it was easier to pick up on details like the fact that this character is introduced in one of the film’s very first scenes looking out the window as children run by outside the house.

For some time now, I have said that this is my favorite film of the 1990s, and if I were to update my all-time top ten list to include a film from that decade, it would be this one. In all honesty, I have to say I’m not absolutely sure that that is still the case, but I do like Mike Leigh’s films in general (I dubbed Vera Drake my official favorite film of last year), and I still love this film in particular; once again, the final half-hour got me a little misty-eyed.

(One of the things that distracted me this time was the constant references to people being X years old when such-and-such happened X years ago, etc.; I kept wanting to plot a timeline, which is the sort of geekish task that feels more suitable where, say, sci-fi is concerned; it is made even more complicated by the fact that there are now 9 years between the film and today.)

On a personal level, it was interesting to see this film again and its portrayal of a married couple now that I am married myself; and the film, which is partly about adults dealing with the legacies of their deceased parents, was given an unexpected resonance when my mother phoned in the middle of the movie to say that my 90-year-old Oma had just been admitted to hospital due to heart problems. I’m not the sort of person who asks strangers for prayers, but I will say that my wife and I said a few.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • http://gracepages.blogspot.com Dave Rattigan

    Secrets and Lies is one of my favourite films, too, although for me it is a toss-up between that and All or Nothing. The constant references to age would be in keeping with the Leigh’s constant allusions to birth, life and death (in both image and dialogue), here and in his other films.

  • peter

    I love all of Mike Leigh’s films. Some favourites include Meantime, Life is Sweet, High Hopes, Abigail’s Party and All or Nothing. Some of these would be in my top ten films.

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