31 August 2004 | ginger_sonny
Mike Leigh's superb comedy-drama of family relationships. Heart-rending, bitter and delightful by turn
Leigh's modern classic captured a brace of Oscar nominations but went home empty handed in the face of The English Patient's near clean sweep. Even Blethyn's Cannes-winning performance lost out to Frances McDormand's Fargo turn (hard to challenge this decision, although in any other year the brilliant Blethyn would have deserved to win). The film eventually racked up a considerable number of awards, its Oscar success aside.
The story, every bit as believable and real as the rest of Leigh's work, centres on a woman, Cynthia Purley (Blethyn ), whose mid-life crisis is further exacerbated by the appearance on the scene of the daughter she gave away at birth, the wonderfully named Hortense Cumberbatch (Baptiste) - a young, beautiful, professional black woman who causes a few eyebrows to be raised in the family, and forces Cynthia to come to terms with her past.
Alternating between high comedy, scathing one-liners (Blethyn telling daughter Rushbrook she has a face like a "slapped arse" is a moment to treasure) and tear-jerking poignancy, with Spall, Rushbrook and Baptiste all offering strong support, this is nothing short of superb.
Verdict A genuine hit for Mike Leigh, Secrets And Lies has the coarse grain of real life, sympathetically and affirmingly fashioned.