Truth doesn’t come easy in director Mike Leigh’s unflinching look at a London family being slowly torn apart by mundane despair. But the palpable, largely improvised performances in the Oscar-nominated Secrets & Lies couldn’t be more honest. The bleak, disappointing existence of factory worker Cynthia Purley (Brenday Blethyn) gets a jolt when the daughter whom she gave up for adoption (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) turns up as a soft-spoken professional black woman. Blethyn, who adeptly projects a subtle dumbfoundedness, goes from stunned disbelief to acceptance during their initial encounter, while Jean-Baptiste effectively conveys the bravery and striking awkwardness characteristic of such an unusual meeting. Happiness may be an unexpected emotion in such a heavy film, but through sharing one another’s pain openly at last, all the characters find comfort and even joy.
EXTRAS None, which is especially disappointing considering the potential for commentary on an improvised project. (Blethyn and Jean-Baptiste weren’t introduced until their very first scene together!