No secrets

A three year-old girl is missing. Suspects include kids themselves – two 18 year-old girls convicted of killing a baby in their pre-teen days. Every Secret Thing is not a happy film.

Based on a novel of the same name, the film adaptation carries an artsy atmosphere. The material is not suited. Extended conversations are visually sunk by minimal light. Flashbacks are airy, even happy despite their context. Detective-based procedural events are then muted in comparison. Police stations lack light, or so assumes Every Secret Thing.

It’s all murky. So is character definition. Opening scenes scatter, lifting one protagonist as it drops another. There’s no settling down. In the midst of a panic, it’s unclear whose baby is missing let alone if the parents are linked to the opening flashback. Opening moments lack precision, a flubbed technique repeated by the end when characters deflate the drama with an artificial apathy.


Every Secret Thing is low-key, too much so.

The film is willing to leave an audience crushed – no Hollywood ending here. Build-up gains tension too. Second act work makes the right motions to throw viewers off before exposing clues too early. This relief as the mystery is revealed lacks dramatic flair. It’s all conversation, as if the rushed conclusion to a budget sapped episode of Law & Order. Every Secret Thing is low-key, too much so. It’s seeking Gone Girl’s oppressive psychological form without the heft of high-dollar direction.

And worse, it’s leaving with a bevy of negativity, characterizing people solely by their weight and running a “professional victim” routine which is unhealthy when given menial context. It’s an angry film. Great actresses are then swallowed by the B-level material given to them, Elizabeth Banks leading as an emotionally crushed detective, Diane Lane thrown away as a mother of a suspect. Dakota Fanning tops a female-led cast, but is likewise stunted by the script’s rapid, over-eager progression. Rapper Common is pitifully typecast on the side.


As a story, it exposes a mental breakdown, how broken childhoods create desperate needs for attention. Lackluster mothering, awkward social interactions, trauma; such a recipe builds a compulsive liar who then believes their own lies as they sink into a narcissist despair. What this amounts to, particularly after this jumble of narrative form, is limited. Exploration of what causes someone to take such a darkened path is dull motivation for the script instead of an honest portrayal. Shock and awe over legitimacy is policy here.

Director Amy Berg, documentary filmmaker of 2006’s Deliver Us from Evil, does not slide successfully into fiction. Every Secret Thing has style and flair – carelessly so – which only dresses up a script better suited to prime time or cable. It’s not a risk taker, only derivative. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.


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