Parents' Guide to

Secrets & Lies

By Tom Cassidy, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

British dysfunctional family dramedy has strong language.

Movie R 1996 136 minutes
Secrets & Lies Poster Image

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A benchmark for comedy dramas, this award-winning 1996 film is a bonafide masterpiece. For Secrets & Lies, writer-director Mike Leigh took the 1960s British gritty kitchen sink drama and updated it with laughs and heart, the legacy of which can be seen in all good comedic dramas that followed. This slice of life movie is brimming with just that: life. Its characters are flawed, sometimes absurd, but utterly believable, with every cast member making the screen sizzle. The performances and direction are so good that small-scale set pieces, such as a suburban barbecue, become movie masterclasses.

Despite some difficult themes, including the loss of parents, its message is ultimately hopeful, with growth and warmth underpinning it all. Add to that a never better Brenda Blethyn as factory worker Cynthia, who is reunited with the daughter she gave up for adoption decades ago. The story is drip-fed by Leigh, with the audience having to wait for key revelations that explain behaviors, reactions, and relationships. This never feels unfair though. Instead we lean in, enjoy the company and cringe, laugh, cry, and love along the way.

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