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Title: Secrets
Genre: Drama
Language: English
Production Company: Knight Productions

Secrets is all about relationships, ambiguity and the loss of innocence.

Something like Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill (1983), the film kicks off with a tight-knit group of buddies getting together to celebrate the passing of a close friend.

Except for the subplot of substance abuse, however, any similarity to that film pretty much ends here.

After confessing their innermost secrets to one another while camping at the waters edge and carousing in various indoor locations, the group’s unrestrained boozing and, especially, drug habits lead to an unfortunate unraveling.

The turning point occurs over a bad drug deal. Suddenly the innocent, soul searching found earlier in the film moves to something darker.

From the DVD liner notes we learn that Secrets was shot in 7 days with an improvised script. This gives the film freshness and spontaneity. And for me, anyhow, its laissezfaire production style confronted some of the cultural tropes that – God forbid – have burned deep neural pathways in my brain by virtue of my proximity to North American culture.

True, Canadians get a fair amount of European, Asian and other international TV and film. But the American Dream still lights up our CRT and Flat Screen TVs, working its way into our subconscious desires more than, perhaps, we wish to admit.

Like something out of a George Orwell novel, I see that elusive, ephemeral Dream flickering away every night as I take my evening walk. You don’t have to be a peeping Tom to see it. TVs just keep getting bigger and bigger, making it all so much easier to see the 21st-century Screen through so many Toronto living room windows.


So I had to pull back and readjust my expectations while watching this film. Not that I’m a stranger to international cinema. I’m not. I can handle subtitles just as well as anyone else. And I like taking imaginal trips without having to worry about the inherent dangers of flying.

By the same token, the overseas films that make it big here usually follow, to some degree, a commercially proven formula. And why not? After all, most people want to hit the jackpot–even if they claim otherwise with a false humility ironically mingled with an air of artistic superiority. In Western movie halls and DVD sales, making it big often means drawing on, to some extent, the Hollywood legacy (I know next to nothing about Chinese films, except for Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan…).

Sure, artistic styles have always been evolving, interpenetrating and expanding, and no doubt will continue to. As Heraclitus once put it, you can’t stand in the same river twice. But, having said that, there’s still a river to think about.

Ha. Okay. Now you get it.

Well, actually, maybe you don’t. Because the most powerful and surprising secret about Secrets is that it subtly undermines quite a few contemporary conventions.

Secrets is almost like a watercolor in motion. It’s got focus; but different approaches and ideas flow into one another, offering complexity and a touch of chaos without sacrificing overall coherence.

At first, I didn’t really connect with the characters in this film (although many of the same actors were quite absorbing in other Yildirim films). But after letting Secrets percolate for a while, the film simply wouldn’t let me go. Like other Yildirim productions, this one, too, got under my skin.

The phrase “thought-provoking” comes to mind. Along with “challenging.” Both are good things, as has been the lingering influence of Secrets.


(Review for Secrets: The Director’s Cut is here)