Secrets & Lies

Secrets & Lies

Mike Leigh (1995)

15 Certificate


Our Score
After 20 years of critical acclaim, Mike Leigh finally scored a resounding box-office hit with this bittersweet snoop into the nooks and crannies of family life. The winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes and the recipient of a host of other awards, it's a very different film from Leigh's previous effort, the unrelentingly cynical Naked. It's a return to the familiar battleground of suburbia, but without the caricature that occasionally undermines Leigh's razor-sharp social observation. There's also a tenderness that is absent from much of his other work, although the over-riding tone is melancholic. The teasing statements on the original poster best sum up the film's labyrinthine relationships: "Roxanne drives her mother crazy. Maurice never speaks to his niece. Monica can't talk to her husband. Hortense has never met her mother. Cynthia has a shock for her family." But storyline is the least important aspect of the film. Indeed, even the secrets and lies themselves are of less significance than how the different characters respond to the revelations. It requires an ensemble of extraordinary quality to carry off so many emotional shifts and still make it seem like real life. Brenda Blethyn, who won the best actress prize at Cannes, triumphs in what is usually Alison Steadman country - her café scene with fellow Oscar nominee Marianne Jean-Baptiste is a highlight. Timothy Spall and Claire Rushbrook are also impressive, but don't overlook the deft contributions of Phyllis Logan and Lee Ross.


A successful black optician learns she is adopted and goes in search of her birth mother, who turns out to be a working class white woman, estranged from her brother and struggling to connect with her teenage daughter. The reunited mother and child soon become close friends, but tensions rise at a family gathering. Mike Leigh's drama, starring Brenda Blethyn, Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Timothy Spall.

Cast & Crew

Maurice Timothy Spall
Cynthia Brenda Blethyn
Hortense Marianne Jean-Baptiste
Monica Phyllis Logan
Roxanne Claire Rushbrook
Jane Elizabeth Berrington
Dionne Michele Austin
Paul Lee Ross
Social worker Lesley Manville
Stuart Ron Cook
Girl with scar Emma Amos
Hortense's brother Brian Bovell
Hortense's brother Trevor Laird
Director Mike Leigh
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Other Information

Language: EnglishColourTheatrical distributor: Film Four DistributorsGuidance: Contains swearing. Available on: video, DVD and Blu-ray