A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Secret Obsession is an intense thriller in which a female protagonist is in dire jeopardy throughout. From the opening scenes, which show her running for her life from a shadowy assailant, to the final sequence, in which she must outwit and outrun a psychopathic killer while physically impaired, the young woman is in survival mode. Brutal killings occur in murky, disorienting shots; dead bodies are seen, bloody and/or decomposing. Other sequences involve chases, a woman held captive, a momentary sexual threat, people knocked unconscious, gunfire, and physical fights. A few curses are heard: "sonofabitch," "goddamn," "Jesus." There are romantic kisses and embraces; some are shown in flashback. People drink wine at dinner; a detective takes pills on one occasion.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Jennifer Williams (Brenda Song) is stalked and chased by a shadowy figure with a knife then hit by a car in the opening moments of SECRET OBSESSION. Admitted to a hospital with serious injuries and partial amnesia, Jennifer awakens from surgery to find husband Russell (Mike Vogel) by her side. Russell is loving and intent on making Jennifer's recovery easy, but the woman is unnerved by feelings of dread. It's not just because she can't remember her husband or recent events; she's also subject to flashbacks of darkness and danger. As Jennifer begins to recover, Sheriff's Detective Frank Page (Dennis Haysbert) is sent to investigate the hit-and-run accident. It isn't long before both Jennifer and Detective Page become aware that things may not be as they seem. The steadfast Russell may be hiding something. And who is the mysterious man trying to make contact with Jennifer? Jennifer's return to the magnificent home she shares with Russell doesn't relieve her distress. Suspense escalates; danger feels imminent; and horrifying secrets are revealed as both Jennifer and Detective Page get ever closer to the truth.
Is it any good?
With more concern for logic and tight plotting, this well-performed and photographed thriller might have worked; but gaps in both, along with a hackneyed villain, weaken the story and its impact. Unanswered questions, and there are many, can't be glossed over so easily, even when the action is fierce and the victim is terrified. Characters and story points appear and disappear without explanation. Decades ago, "woman-in-jeopardy" movies like this one (without as much graphic violence) were mainstays of cable and network television programming. Some of them were very good and well-received. Netflix seems to be trying to pick up the slack, as they are with romcoms for young viewers. That may be a good thing, but Secret Obsession is a substandard entry in their expanding catalogue.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Secret Obsession. What built the most tension in the movie -- the on-camera murders or the constant threat to the film's heroine? What do you think the filmmakers intended by revealing the grisly bodies of the murderer's early victims? Was it strictly for shock value, or did it raise the stakes for Jennifer? Why is it important to understand the impact of violence on kids?
Amnesia (a partial or total loss of memory -- in reality a rare disorder) is often a significant plot element in mysteries, thrillers, and even comedies. What about amnesia makes it so appealing for storytellers? In this movie, how did the filmmakers attempt to explain the inconsistencies in Jennifer's condition?
What was the purpose of giving Detective Page a "backstory" (in this case, a missing daughter)? In what way, if any, did his past loss impact his job on this case? Or was it simply to create sympathy for him?
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