Review: The Secrets We Keep (2020)

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The Secrets We Keep (2020)

Directed by: Yuval Adler | 98 minutes | drama, thriller, horror | Actors: Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, Chris Messina, Jackson Dean Vincent, Amy Seimetz, Miluette Nalin, Madison Paige Jones, Jeff Pope, David Maldonado, Ed Amatrudo, Ritchie Montgomery, Victoria Hill, Thomas Francis Murphy, Rocco Brocato

Whether the inspiration for ‘The Secrets We Keep’ was Roman Polanski’s ‘Death and the Maiden’ is unknown, but the similarities between the two films are not to be missed. For example, both films revolve around the question of guilt and the reliability of the memory of a traumatized victim. However, the course of both films is quite different and also reflects the zeitgeist. Polankski’s film was released in 1994, while Yuval Adler unleashed his ‘The Secrets We Keep’ on the world in 2020, at a time when a pandemic is dominating the news and social divisions are widening. It has resulted in a hard, cold film. A film that is even harder than Polankski’s pale world view.

Set in the 1960s, ‘The Secrets We Keep’ revolves around Maja (Noomi Rapace). This woman is the only survivor of a massacre in her Romanian native village during the Second World War. Fifteen years after that terrible event, the lady now living in New York thinks she sees a war criminal (Joel Kinnaman) walking by. Maja is convinced that this man is her old tormentor and she makes a drastic decision. By confronting this man, she hopes to get justice. The point is whether the man in question is actually the monster that Maja thinks.

Like ‘Death and the Maiden’, ‘The Secrets We Keep’ presents itself as a mysterious whodunit. Who is lying and who is telling the truth? It is clear that the bruised Maja is not the most stable person and is that calm man really a monster with blood on his hands? Polankski turned it into a psychological joust between Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley. The tension was raised to boiling point by this acting duel. Adler has other motives and goes for a more blunt (read: more physical) approach. Less drama, more horror.

‘The Secrets We Keep’ is a rape & revenge movie and that is a subgenre that you should like. These films revolve around revenge and let rape victims make short work of their assailants. The assault is very explicitly portrayed and is downright sad to see. Adler does not shy away from violence and that makes for an uncomfortable viewing. The fact that Rapace is very intense in her role makes the drama even worse to watch. Kinnaman is also on track.

It is a pity that the acting talent of this duo has not been sharpened. More drama and less blood would have made the film better. Now ‘The Secrets We Keep’ is a somewhat raunchy horror film with an excellent cast and an underdeveloped story. With more depth and humanity, this could have become a cult classic. Now it’s a clone of ‘I Spit On Your Grave’ with a better cast and an unnecessary WWII sauce. Adler has damn little to say. Unfortunate.

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