Film: The Secrets We Keep

The Secrets We Keep (2020) is one of those films with a trailer that gives the game away. This is unfortunate, because I’m guessing it might put people off from a decent period drama with a nice thematic core. The film takes place in the American midwest in the late 1950s, in a small town near an oil refinery. There, immigrant Maja Reid (Noomi Rapace) lives and works with her doctor husband Lewis (Chris Messina). Maja’s placid life is disrupted when she spots Thomas Steinman (Joel Kinnaman) in a local park. She recognizes Steinman from her past in Europe, where she survived a Nazi atrocity in Romania. She’s convinced that Steinman is one of the soldiers who contributed to her traumatic experience, and his appearance triggers a desperate, violent reaction. She proceeds to draw Lewis into her investigation and interrogation of Steinman, who claims to be a Swiss citizen innocent of any wrong-doing. His convincing arguments, combined with Maja’s history of psychological distress, leave Lewis conflicted about whether they have the right man, which threatens to tear the couple apart.

There’s something vaguely dissatisfying about The Secrets We Keep, and it has something to do with the film’s predictable shape. It sets the stage well enough, with a subtle, effective build-up, but once the plot mechanics are in motion it goes in expected directions, deploying story mechanics that engender more than a fair share of unconvincing moments. On the other hand, there’s confident visual story-telling on display, the period details are nicely realized, and the performances—from Rapace, Kinnaman, Messina, and Amy Seimetz—are quite good. Structurally, it’s definitely missing that certain something that might have made it the gripping Hitchcockian thriller it’s aiming to be. But it’s also rock solid thematically, with a haunting final moment that brings home a dark message. Not a home run for me, and probably not for everybody, but I’m happy enough to have seen it.



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