THE SECRETS WE KEEP – A Review by Cynthia Flores
I love the way this film opens with a close-up shot on a giant bubble. Your POV is outside of it, but you hear what’s going on around you as if you’re inside the bubble. You hear the laughter of children. Muffled distinctive music from the 50s is playing somewhere. When the delicate bubble pops suddenly, you are back in post-World War II America. About fifteen years after the war ended. The rest of the film carries the fragility of that bubble of a perfect life and how easily it can burst into nothingness.
The Secrets We Keep is a taut thriller by director / co-writer Yuval Adler. It tells the story of Maja (Noomi Rapace), a Romanian immigrant rebuilding her life in the suburbs of a small U.S. town. She has a kind doctor for a husband, Lewis (Chris Messina). They met when he was working in the military, stationed in Greece. They have a young son Patrick (Jackson Dean Vincent) and live a quiet life as upstanding community members. She never told Lewis that she was a Romani Holocaust survivor. Instead, she dealt and tried to heal from the trauma of war on her own. Rebuilding her life after the dehumanization and genocide she had experienced.
All is well until a new family moves into town. While Maja and her son are in the park enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon, she hears a very distinctive whistle. It takes her back to a horrible event just before the war ended. It is a nightmarishly familiar tune. The man whistling for his dog had no idea that he had awakened a dark past the two strangers shared over fifteen years ago.
Later in the week, Maja glimpses the stranger (Joel Kinnaman) in a hardware store. She spirals back to a night she has tried to forget. She fears he is the German soldier named Karl, who brutalized her and murdered her younger sister. But after fifteen years, can she be sure? Ultimately, she kidnaps him, knocking him unconscious and locking him in the trunk of her car. She takes him home and tells her husband the truth about her past and begs him to help her interrogate him. To make him confess to what he had done to her. What happens next is a study in the aftermath of violence. The film asks whether revenge can heal tragedy or if forgiveness is even possible after such brutality.
The star of the film, Noomi Rapace, first came to international stardom in the role of the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In this new film, she is also the executive producer and chose her friend and fellow actor Joel Kinnaman to tackle this exciting project. The pair, who attended high school together in Sweden, were eager to work together in lead roles. Noomi, as Maja, is this film’s blazing center. Her performance of a woman going from avenging angel to a zealous truth seeker is powerful. The flashback scenes of the rape at the hands of the Nazis are disorientating and brutal but necessary to explain what would drive this woman to give up on the happiness she’s achieved to get at the truth.
I give The Secrets We Keep a 4.5-star rating. It’s a powerful film that will make people’s best-of lists for 2020.
Directed by: Yuval Adler
Written by: Yuval Adler, Ryan Covington
Selig Rating 4.5 Stars
Running Time: 1hr 37min
Drama / Thriller
Limited Theatrical Release: September 16th – Studio Movie Grill, Galaxy Theatres Grandscape, Modern Art Museum, Fun Movie Grill at MacArthur Marketplace, VOD October 16th
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, Chris Messina
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
4 Stars – Good movie
3 Stars – OK movie
2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.