#REVIEW: “THE SECRETS WE KEEP”
Review by Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
In post-World War II America, survivor Maja (Noomi Rapace) rebuilds her life in the suburbs with her husband Lewis (Chris Messina). However, Maja’s life soon becomes consumed by her traumatic past when she believes her neighbour, Thomas (Joel Kinnaman), to be a Nazi who committed war crimes against her. In an act of vengeance, Maja kidnaps Thomas with the intent to get his confession for his heinous acts of violence.
Instead of throwing us into the immediate trauma of the war, we witness the lasting effects of it. Screenwriter Ryan Covington examines the effects of trauma especially when they are kept hidden by the survivor. Maja has kept her past a secret, even from her husband. In doing so, her horrific experience builds along with rage and trauma. Covington also examines how our memories of traumatic experiences become fragmented with time. He explains this fragmentation happens due to replaying the abuse every day in our mind.
This memory fragment storyline allows Covington to weave-in a gaslighting narrative. Director Yuval Adler uses this narrative and amplifies it which leads audiences into a suspenseful story of a possible mistaken identity. Thomas repeatedly denies that he is the man Maja believes him to be. This creates Maja to question her memory quite often at the beginning of the story. Thomas is so convincing in his conviction and his repeated references to Maja’s fractured memory that even Lewis begins to become skeptical of Maja’s conviction. It’s these two themes, fragmented memory and gaslighting, that create powerful performances.
Our Protagonist, Maja, is expertly performed by Rapace. She exposes Maja’s grief, trauma and guilt in carefully measured increments that create for an enthralling performance. Rapace centers Maja so even in her peak outbursts, she is level-headed and in control. This is refreshing to see compared to the often-manic outbursts we see in cinema today. Kinnaman is great in creating doubt among audiences as to Thomas’ innocence or guilt. He’s best when being tormented by Maja, unleashing Thomas’ fear. And Messina is tremendous as a doctor-husband who is caught between aiding his wife and his inherent instinct to tend to wounds. It’s Lewis who has the biggest arch in the Film and Messina perfectly unveils that arch throughout.
Overall, The Secrets We Keep keeps its audience in suspense of this possible case of mistaken identity. It also questions what vengeance can be. Is it something as dark as murder, or can it be needing a confession from someone who can fill the gaps in your memory?
Elevation Pictures release THE SECRETS WE KEEP on Digital and On-Demand Friday, October 16, 2020.