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Secrets and Lies (1996)

Timothy Spall , Brenda Blethyn , Mike Leigh  |  R |  DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)

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Secrets and Lies + Life Is Sweet (Criterion Collection)
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Product Details

  • Actors: Timothy Spall, Brenda Blethyn, Phyllis Logan, Claire Rushbrook, Marianne Jean-Baptiste
  • Directors: Mike Leigh
  • Writers: Mike Leigh
  • Producers: Simon Channing Williams
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: February 1, 2005
  • Run Time: 136 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0006HBZD8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,134 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Secrets and Lies" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Theatrical trailer

Editorial Reviews

After her adoptive parents die, a young black woman seeks out her natural birth mother, only to discover her mother is white, thus setting in motion the revelation of a whole series of secrets and lies.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful emotional experience October 14, 2003
Format:VHS Tape
This film is possibly the most emotionally powerful film I have ever seen. I have never cared more for a group of characters as I did for those in "Secrets and Lies." Director/writer Mike Leigh is famous for giving his actors the outlines of their characters and having them improvise most of their lines. This technique succeeds brilliantly here - you feel as if you're a part of these people's lives. All the actors turn in wonderful performances - Brenda Blethyn as the long-suffering poor single English mother, Marianne Jean Baptiste as a young black girl in search of her natural parents, Claire Rushbrook as Blethyn's rebellious daughter, and Phyllis Logan as Blethyn's well-to-do yet frustrated sister in law. At the center of it all is a monumentally understated performance by Timothy Spall, who as Blethyn's brother attempts to hold everyone's lives together as they face the pain of their ordinary existence. A truly moving film that is one of the best ever.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A triumph August 1, 2000
Format:VHS Tape
A mild-mannered, intelligent young black woman (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) tracks down her birth mother, Cynthia Purley (Brenda Blethyn), who just happens to be white. That's only the central plot thread in Mike Leigh's very poignant, very funny, very smart family drama, which received well-deserved Oscar nominations for best picture, best director, best actress, best supporting actress, and best original screenplay. A keenly observed piece set in middle-class and upper middle-class England, "Secrets & Lies" offers such an abundance of riches it's hard to know where to begin.
The plot is fairly simple, though the emotions beneath it aren't. Cynthia is initially afraid to meet the child she gave up years ago, but eventually opens up and discovers that her long-lost daughter, Hortense, is not only a sweet and refined young lady, but the possible source of the love and affection she wants so badly. She receives none of that sort of attention from her other daughter, Roxanne, a bitter, sharp-tongued council worker who, like her secret half-sister, was conceived out of wedlock. Adding to the tension is Cynthia's relationship with her brother, Maurice, and his socially ambitious wife, Monica. The latter is pained by her inability to have a child, and particularly despises Cynthia, who is able to bear children but, in Monica's mind, unable to provide them with the family environment and opportunities that she can. All of these threads converge at an afternoon birthday party, during which all the pent-up secrets and lies explode like a sequence of fireworks. Emotions are laid bare, the past is revealed, and finally, the film hints, the healing process can begin.
A synopsis really doesn't do full justice to the sheer impact of this film.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Mike Leigh flick finally makes it to DVD March 7, 2005
Dysfunction is better than no function at all in Mike Leigh's "Secrets and Lies". Finally available on DVD to coincide with the Oscar nomination actress Imelda Staunton received for "Vera" (another film directed by Leigh), "Secrets and Lies" tells the story of a successful and well-to-do black woman Hortense Cumberbatch ( Oscar nominated Marianne Jean-Baptiste of "Without a Trace") who tracks down her birth mother. It seems her mother was a lower-class white woman named Monica Purley (Brenda Blethyn, Golden Globe winner and multiple Oscar nominee). Monica denies that she's Hortense's mother but gradually comes to accept and embrace her daughter despite their differences. A bittersweet comedy full of commanding performances, "Secrets and Lies" was a surprising box office success (hence its recognition by the Academy and the multiple nominations it deservedly earned). With rewarding performances all around and Leigh's naturalistic style, "Secrets and Lies" was a winner whether or not it pulled down any gold at Oscar time. Not bad for a guy who used to play in a band with Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music fame.

Many of Leigh's films feature uncompromising performances and partially improvised scripts. This collaborative method makes Leigh's films both unique and memorable even when they aren't very good. Luckily, "Secrets and Lies" is very, very good.

Sadly, this is a pretty bare bones affair. We get the original theatrical trailer and the theatrical trailers for "Author! Author!", "Blood & Wine" and "Class Action". It's a pity as 10 years on, it might have been interesting to catch up with the actors and the impact that their Oscar nominations had on their respective careers. There's also no commentary track but the drama speakes pretty well for itself.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
I've seen a good number of Mike Leigh's films over the years, from early works like Bleak Moments and Abigail's Party to later indie hits like Life Is Sweet, Naked, and High Hopes, but THIS is his BEST, most perfectly realized film to date - from the pitch-perfect performances of the entire cast (due to months of exhaustive rehearsal to develop the each character no matter how small or large the role) to the understated, minimalist direction to the somber score to the conversational "script," SECRETS & LIES slowly builds until its cumulative effect toward the climax is one of the deepest emotional blows ever deliver on film - you feel as if you KNOW and LIVE with these people, so that they cease to be mere characters on screen and, well, like your own circle of family and friends - not always pretty, often messy, always brilliant, SECRETS & LIES deserves to be on DVD to a wider audience can share in its spell it casts over you. My only gripe is Fox's typically bare-bones DVD format - c'mon, NO commentary from Leigh on his creative process, NO insights from the cast, many of which went on to win a clutch of awards and crossover American work (Blethyn, Baptiste, etc.), NO featurette or DELETED scenes! The film itself is enough, I just wish there were a bit more to flesh out the entire experience.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 days ago by Robbie Tidmon
5.0 out of 5 stars I really like this movie
I really like this movie. Have seen it before - Brenda Blethyn is wonderful as the "mother" and everyne else is really well cast.. Unusual and touching
Published 16 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Love this movie and its theme as it relates to the family in the story.
Published 1 month ago by Marcia Saunders , Ms
5.0 out of 5 stars I very much like this movie ans was very happy to find it ...
I very much like this movie ans was very happy to find it on VHS and DVD. I like VHS too so this was a very good purchase
Published 2 months ago by Shira L'Heureuex
2.0 out of 5 stars Wait and wait for it
This came highly regarded but I had to shut it off because it was so slow. I'm sure it pays off in the end, the build up had potential but to long to get going.
Published 3 months ago by Paul A. Spangler
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely movie
One of my favourites movies ever, brits actress Brenda Blethyn and Marie-Jean Baptiste gave such amazing performaces, though a rather sad movie it's worth watching it definitely. Read more
Published 4 months ago by scastellon
5.0 out of 5 stars This really deserves to be more accessible than it is!
Mike Leigh has a way with spinning stories about disgruntled families in a way that feels so effortless and light despite the monumental weight that is often associated to them. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Andrew Ellington
5.0 out of 5 stars love
love the story and cast! it makes you laugh and cry and feel good me this movie is worth buying
Published 10 months ago by tigeress2010
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite Mike Leigh Films
I wish I could get this on DVD. This was my introduction (years ago) to Mike Leigh films. It still stands as one of my favorite films of all time (my time :))
Published 12 months ago by C. Creedon
4.0 out of 5 stars Graet Movie
love the movie, only problem the sub titles in different lang wont cut off.
however the movie is great you need to watch.
Published 14 months ago by David
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