Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Secrets We Keep (2020) Film Review
The Secrets We Keep
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
Yuval Adler's Fifties-set film (co-written with Ryan Covington) has a serious subject at its heart - that of war crimes and an escape from justice but though the director initially seems to approach this in a sombre fashion, as he tries to build his moral maze of ambiguity, all too often he can't resist using B-movie exploitation devices to further the story.
Things start off well, at least in terms of the film's look and feel, thanks to strong costuming and thoughtful camera work from Kolja Brandt, a large bubble bursting in the first few moments heralding what is to come in the world of Maja (Noomi Rapace), a Romanian emigre to the US. There's an edgy quality to the camerawork and the way Maja chain smokes cigarettes that suggests she doesn't quite fit in, even though she is trying her best to do so.
Adler throws the film into third gear almost immediately, after Maja hears the whistle of a man, who we instinctively know may be a wrong 'un, even before we hear his Germanic accent. Scenes of her following him have a tension that is jettisoned later in favour of more visceral gratification and it's a shame that Adler didn't take more time to set up the domestic bubble Maja lives in with her doctor husband Lewis (Chris Messina), which means the actors will have to do a lot of heavy lifting in order to make the psychological elements work as the story progresses.
Speaking of heavy lifting, the bounds of believability are also strained almost from the start, as we're expected to believe that pint-sized Maja could not only subdue the hunk of human that is Thomas (Joel Kinnaman) but also heft him unseen into the boot of her car. Taking him home - and to the inevitable basement - we're also asked to set aside any scepticism we might have that Lewis would play along with this, although it does touch on one of the film's more interesting themes, that of keeping up appearances, no matter what.
The did he/didn't he element struggles to get off the ground because beyond his protestations of being Swiss and spending the war in a bureaucratic job, Thomas is largely presented as a blank slate. This means that though Rapace and Messina are very watchable, along with Amy Seimetz who brings an interesting, but again, underused dynamic to the role of Thomas' wife, the fact that Thomas is little more than an object rather than a fully fleshed out human undercuts the psychological tension. In general, the action feels either overly restrained or pushed too far, with Adler rarely finding the sweet spot in between.
The Secrets We Keep is available on Sky CinemaReviewed on: 14 May 2021