Every Secret Thing

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Every Secret Thing Movie Poster Image
Overly complex kidnapping drama has disturbing scenes.
  • R
  • 2015
  • 93 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Don't make snap decisions about people; people who seem the most sincere and caring may in fact anything but, while those who seem to be most likely to cause trouble may actually be trying to avoid conflict.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Two of the four main characters are manipulative and deceitful, so self-absorbed they don't even realize how much harm they cause to those around them.

Violence

A girl slaps an adult during an argument. An extended scene shows a teenager injuring herself. A young child is kidnapped from a store -- it's disturbing to see how quickly a child can vanish. In another sequence, two 11-year-old girls kidnap a baby, who becomes sick because they don't know how to care for an infant.

Sex

A teenage girl in a juvenile detention facility becomes involved with an adult guard. They're shown kissing and hugging. Other characters discuss the couple's sexual activities, as well as the unexpected consequences

Language

Frequent swearing includes "bitch," "s--t," and various permutations of "f--k."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A mother frequently drinks wine at home and at meals; in one scene she offers small sips to two 11-year-old girls. One character frequently smokes cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Every Secret Thing is a complicated drama that spans two time periods, with a tragic kidnapping in each. There are some tough scenes to watch involving young children in danger. Teen characters are simultaneously callous and cruel and damaged and victimized (one extended scene shows a teen girl harming herself); parents seem to veer back and forth between desperately sad and horribly manipulative. Expect some drinking (an adult offers sips to two 11-year-olds), and one character frequently smokes cigarettes. There's also a fair bit of swearing, notably "s--t" and "f--k." A teenage girl in a juvenile detention facility becomes involved with an adult guard; they're shown kissing and hugging.

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What's the story?

Best friends Ronnie (Dakota Fanning) and Alice (Danielle MacDonald) were sent to juvenile detention after perpetrating a tragic kidnapping when they were just 11 years old. Eight years later, they're finally out and trying to reconstruct their lives, but when another young child goes missing, a local detective (Elizabeth Banks) thinks they might know something about the crime.

Is it any good?

Moody and complicated, the movie jumps back and forth between two time periods, centering on mostly unlikable characters involved in heinous acts. Two children go missing; one dies, and while we're not certain about the fate of the other, it doesn't look good. Some of these scenes might be unpleasant to watch -- and even more difficult to stomach is Diane Lane as the narcissistic, manipulative mother of one of the 11-year-old girls. No, she's not involved in the crimes, but its easy to see how she raised a child who would be.

EVERY SECRET THING is competently made, and it does a good job of establishing a grim mood. But it ultimately falls flat because it fails to get viewers to root for anyone. Banks' detective is thinly drawn, and some of her best police work seems to stem from lucky hunches. The teenage girls are bitter and broken, and they make every scene they're in dour and disturbing. The movie can take you to dark places, and not because it's so transportive, but because it has few other moods that contour it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Every Secret Thing depicts parents and children. Would you consider any of the parents to be role models? What does it mean to be a "good parent"?

  • How does Helen shape her daughter's personality, both as a young girl and as a teenager? Who's the bigger troublemaker -- Alice or Ronnie? How does your perception of them change over the course of the film?

  • How does the movie depict drinking and self-harm? What are the consequences of each?

Movie details

For kids who love drama

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