Secrets & Lies (1996)

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Released 5-Jun-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1996
Running Time 136:30 (Case: 142)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (83:45) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Mike Leigh
Entertainment One Starring Timothy Spall
Phyllis Logan
Brenda Blethyn
Claire Rushbrook
Marianne Jean-Baptiste
Elizabeth Berrington
Michele Austin
Lee Ross
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $14.95 Music Andrew Dickson

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Maurice Purley: Secrets and lies - we're all in pain. Why can't we share our pain?

    Hortense Cumberbatch: (The) best thing is to tell the truth isn't it? That way, nobody gets hurt.

    Mike Leigh's work in films can be described as belonging to the movement of films that sprang out of 1950s/1960s British cinema that was labelled British New Wave (in contrast to the French New Wave of the same period) and emphasised "kitchen sink realism", a term that means that the film looks at real life situations, with people who tend to be from a working class background. Films such as Tony Richardson's Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (produced by Richardson but directed by Karl Reisz) and A Taste of Honey and Lindsay Anderson's This Sporting Life and if.... are examples of this genre of filmmaking. Ken Loach, a contemporary filmmaker of Leigh's can also be described as a director whose works have been influenced by kitchen sink realism. In Leigh's case however, his films are not as political in tone as Loach's, the characters that feature in a Mike Leigh film are much more ordinary.

    Secrets & Lies (Secrets et Mensonges in French, mentioned in the credits as the film is a British/French co-production) deals with the universal concept of family and belongingness and explores the relationships between five main characters: Maurice Purley (Timothy Spall), his wife Monica Purley (Phyllis Logan), his sister Cynthia Rose Purley (Brenda Blethyn) and her daughters Roxanne Purley (Claire Rushbrook) and Hortense Cumberbatch (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), given up for adoption at birth by Cynthia because of her very young age (sixteen). The beginning of the film begins with the funeral of Hortense's adopted mother and journeys through to finding her real mother and getting to know her. Most of the film is spent exploring the relationship between Cynthia and Hortense, with a pivotal and famous 8-minute long take scene in a diner, but the film utilises the premise of this relationship based on secrets and lies and explores the concept in the relationships of all the main characters, especially in the film's third act. For this reason, Secrets & Lies stands out as the most important work of Mike Leigh's career because it is unlike other films whereby the main characters may cancel one another out (i.e. if one character is sympathetic, it's because the other is unsympathetic, if one is the hero, it's because the other is the villain and so on), the main characters in this film each have a legitimate reason explaining their dysfunctional relationship to each other and thus making each of them sympathetic in the eyes of the audience.

    Mike Leigh is also noted as preparing his films without a script. Instead actors are given free reign to explore and develop their characters and their dialogue. Leigh typically does not give each actor the complete outline of their role, so for example, in Secrets & Lies Brenda Blethyn had no idea that her character's daughter, who was give up for adoption, was black. This method of working for Leigh is somewhat humorous because he has often been nominated for awards for his screenplays and has had to hastily prepare a script for the judicial process (for example, when his 2004 film Vera Drake was nominated).

    Secrets & Lies was nominated for five Oscars, won three BAFTA's and a Golden Globe for Brenda Blethyn. The film won the 1996 Palme d'or and also won the best actress award for Blethyn at the 1996 Cannes film festival.

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Transfer Quality


    Secrets & Lies is presented on a dual layered DVD with an average bitrate of 6.2 mb/sec. At times the bitrate drops to 3 mb/sec and can look slightly grainy when this occurs, which is not often.

    The aspect ratio of the film is 1:85:1. It is 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions.

    The opening credits are unusual in that they pan from left-to-right across the screen, while the opening shots simultaneously pan from right-to-left. The movement of the credits contains slight aliasing.

    Colour is standard for a film shot in the mid-1990s, it is not muted and dull or overly bright, the emphasis of the film is on dialogue rather than cinematography.

    There are minor artefacts throughout the main feature. These occur at 5:44, 5:52, 8:14, 21:00, 22:35, 34:00, 41:01, 43:29, 44:02, 45:33, 50:43, 64:34, 73;44, 75:42, 85:05, 103:13, 123:28 and 125:21. These are not distracting to the viewer as they appear very briefly, most likely they are the result of dust on the negative.

    There are no subtitles, which I regret as subtitles are always useful in a film that contains so much dialogue.

    The RSDL change occurs at 83:45 during a scene change.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Secrets & Lies is a dialogue-driven character study, background music is not employed often.

    The film has one audio track in English. It is encoded at 192kbps in Dolby Digital 2.0. The soundtrack is in stereo and is probably a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded track (like Mike Leigh's previous film to Secrets & Lies, 1993's Naked, but is not flagged as my amplifier transmitted the audio through the two front speakers.

    Dialogue is fairly clear and concise, the characters in this film are Londoners so their accents aren't as difficult to decipher as the northern accents like in Naked.

    Music by Andrew Dickson is again very similar to Naked with the use of sparse string orchestration involving cello, horns and a picked harp that plays an arpeggio theme. The soundtrack is only used in scenes where there is no dialogue.

    Surround channel usage only occurs when music is heard, mainly separating the string and harp elements of the soundtrack amongst the two front channels.

    The Subwoofer is not utilised.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras, not even a trailer.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The film has been released onto DVD in a few Regions, all noteworthy for being devoid of extras.

    The Region 0 Hong Kong and Region 2 French release contain a transfer that is 1:66:1. The French release also includes an interview with Mike Leigh.

    The Region 2 United Kingdom release and Region 1 United States release are both closer to the 1:85:1 aspect ratio of the Region 4 version, with each containing a theatrical trailer as the sole extra.

    Therefore, in comparison, there are no releases of the film onto DVD that stands out from other releases across the different regions of the world, unless the film is re-released onto DVD with extras at some point.


    A huge critical success during its release in 1996, Secrets & Lies is an engaging character-driven drama that is easily accessible to all types of movie lovers. Personally, I found Naked to be more confronting, the main character Johnny, played by David Thewlis, is unforgettable and Thewlis carries that film, in Secrets & Lies, although Brenda Blethyn's and Marianne Jean-Baptiste's characters have the most screen time, their characters are not as central to the film in comparison.

    Secrets & Lies is a worthy film for your consideration if you enjoy dramas that have a heavy style of 'realism'. Extras would have been great, but since no other regional release carries them it's no surprise that the Region 4 release does not have them either.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Friday, July 24, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 019), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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