Film Review: The Secrets We Keep
The Secrets We Keep
Director: Yuval Adler
Di Bonaventura Pictures and Echo Lake Entertainment
In Theaters: 09.16
There’s always a degree of trepidation that I feel when entering a film that deals with the Holocaust and falls into any other genre than historical docudrama, because even the better ones tend to feel a bit too exploitative. And honestly, my expectations were quite low going into The Secrets We Keep.
Noomi Rapace (the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Prometheus) stars as Maja in this psychological thriller set in a small suburban town in post–World War II America. Maja is a European immigrant who leads a happy life with her husband and her son, but one day, she sees a man (Joel Kinnaman, Suicide Squad, Run All Night) whom she believes she recognizes, but not from seeing him in town before. She follows him until she is quite certain it’s the man she remembers from the worst night of her life; a Nazi soldier who was part of a group who did unspeakable things to her and her family.
Maja becomes possessed by thoughts of justice and vengeance, and through cunning and violence, she kidnaps this man and brings him home in the trunk of her car. Before long her husband, Lewis (Chris Messina, Argo), becomes her reluctant accomplice in holding this man prisoner in their basement as she tries to make him confess his horrific crimes. But does she have the right man, or is her past trauma playing tricks on her?
Director Yuval Adler (The Operative) adeptly handles the almost Hitchcokian feel of this white-knuckle thriller, despite budgetary limitations, but it’s the character drama that sets The Secrets We Keep apart. Rapace is mesmerizing as Maja, a woman on the edge of s breakdown and forced to choose between unthinkable actions and equally unthinkable inaction. Rapace is a powerful actress who has struggled to find the right vehicles in Hollywood, but by serving as an executive producer on this one, she’s made sure she has a character that is perfectly suited to her persona and a role she can really sink her teeth into—it’s a must-see if you are a fan.
Messina as the clueless and confused husband caught in an impossible situation makes quite an impression, but it was Kinnaman who made the movie for me. I have to confess that I’ve never been a fan, but he’s been perfectly cast here in a role that takes advantage of his tendency to come off as dull and ordinary while exuding a vague sense of creepiness. That may be something of a backhanded compliment, but he gives the character an almost startling humanity that had me re-evaluating my opinion of him as an actor. It’s a performance that will stick with me and has me looking forward to seeing more from him.
The Secrets We Keep is the kind of film that raises complex questions without trying to give us easy answers, and it’s disturbing in all the right ways. It reminded me of Barry Levinson’s captivating 1997 film Sleepers, but this one is far less sensational. On the downside, the cinematography is a little flat, and the movie could have benefited from a higher production budget. But Adler has still managed to make an enthralling film with a lot going for it, and it deserves to find an audience, whether in theaters or more likely when it hits Video on Demand in October. It’s a shame that Rapace’s performance isn’t generating any buzz, but now that she’s getting more involved behind the camera, the chances of more meaty roles in the future have greatly increased. And that is most definitely something to be added to the long list of things to look forward to when the industry is able to return to some semblance of normality. –Patrick Gibbs