Given the current recommendation to stay home and practice social distancing, we at the Chicago International Film Festival are looking at past selections from each year of the Festival that you can stream now from home. Stream our past selections as we look forward to the 56th Chicago International Film Festival this October 14-25, 2020. Find the full 56 Films for 56 Years selections here.
For today’s #56Films entry, we present Mike Leigh’s award-winning drama Secrets & Lies from the 32nd Chicago International Film Festival with a thoughtful introduction by film critic Nick Davis.
Director: Mike Leigh
32nd Chicago International Film Festival
A critical darling for two preceding decades, Mike Leigh stepped closer to household-name status with this award-winning drama. As the title portends, the film confronts how we can be helplessly in the dark about the most intimate facts of our lives, but also the ways we sometimes deceive ourselves and others, or deny self-recognitions that stare us in the face. The fragile but growing rapport between Marianne Jean-Baptiste’s Hortense and Brenda Blethyn’s Cynthia, as a newly orphaned black woman and the white birth mother who gave her up for adoption, was often promoted as the film’s centerpiece, and both actresses earned Oscar nominations. Given Leigh’s distinctive production processes, neither woman knew who had been cast as her partner in this plotline, or the complex racial dynamics of their relation; thus, in the scene where they make first contact, you’re watching a ground-shifting epiphany unfold in real time, for the characters and the performers. That said, the film distributes nearly equal attention to Timothy Spall’s frustrated family man, Claire Rushbrook’s seething daughter, and Phyllis Logan’s wounded survivor of multiple miscarriages. Secrets & Lies is easily worth repeated looks to see how Leigh and his cast weave these threads together, and to appreciate the movie’s keen visual eye and dexterous pacing and cutting. Leigh’s movie won the top prize at a banner year for the Cannes Film Festival, where modern masterpieces like Fargo and Breaking the Waves were also in competition, and became a gratifying hit with Chicago International Film Festival patrons and commercial audiences alike. — Nick Davis, Film Critic