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    Every Secret Thing (2015): Movie Review


    Based on Laura Lippman’s 2004 bestseller, Every Secret Thing is a film that has the proper materials for an engrossing story and critical success. It premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2014. Due to positive feedbacks from the initial screening, the film was released in theatres on May 15, 2015. However, reactions were lukewarm this time and it fell short of meeting the expectations. So what went wrong? Is this another case of a good book poorly adapted into a movie? 

    Every Secret Thing is the story of two young girls who were imprisoned for the abduction and murder of a baby girl. Years later, the girls are released from prison and each tries to find their luck in the outside world. While Ronnie Fuller (Dakota Fanning) has managed to find work as some sort of cashier in a small store, 18-year-old Alice Manning (Danielle Macdonald) returns to her mother Helen (Diane Lane) and struggles to find a job. She dreams of appearing on camera and plans to submit her story to a producer. Unlike Ronnie who has lean figures, pretty looks and blonde hair, Alice is huge and fat and has curly hairs. Everyday, she walks a great distance around her neighborhood to ease her feelings. 


    But an event soon shatters the peace that the girls are enjoying. A three-year-old biracial girl goes missing. Detective Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks) takes the case and circumstantial evidences lead to Ronnie and Alice. Similar to the first time, the girls claim innocence and point fingers at each other. Detective Porter must enter the mind of the criminal, and this time, imprison the real culprit. But her investigation only leads to more complicated and shocking revelations. In the end, in a pivotal twist of events and truths, the devil becomes the hero. 

    Every Secret Thing is reminiscent of F. Gary Gray’s 2009 thriller film "Law Abiding Citizen" where the main character succeeds in mocking the justice system. Unlike the older film, Every Secret Thing has many technical issues and painstakingly struggles to build up the necessary tension for a crime thriller, but then only mildly able to do so. It started well with that Madonna scene where a child finds ways to sneak some time with her mother. Then it moved on to two girls – one angry, the other rebel – attending and ruining another girl’s birthday party. The conflict happens afterwards when, after they are banished from the pool party, Alice and Ronnie find a black baby girl left on the porch of a house. This scene sets a chain reaction leading to their incarceration, and from this moment on, a general mystery is established – what really happened?

    That incident parallels with the present problem and Detective Porter desperately fits the puzzle together. However, as the story is told and the secrets are unravelled, the movie becomes messy and cluttered. It continually slips from focus and the main theme gets lost in the haze. Consider that point in the beginning when the detective’s partner initially suspects the baby’s father as involved in the kidnapping. This misleads the viewers and instead of cementing the tension, it veers from the subject and weakens the premises earlier established. The same rise and fall of thrill and distractions from the central matter can be observed throughout the film.

    The movie has superb musical score, but it somehow fails to achieve synchronicity as sequencing is quite sluggish and chaotic. Since director Amy J. Berg is best known for her award-winning documentaries, there are certain moments in the film where there is that certain surrealistic vibe and raw quality. Yet, it may have not worked right this time as the grainy texture, combined with the film’s generally depressing air, can shake the audience’s interest and make everything dull.


    The film makes up by assembling an astounding cast which worked well in complementing each other. Though Fanning appears trite and erratic as Ronnie, Banks as Detective Porter is passable. It is Lane and Macdonald who went home run with their performances as Helen and Alice Manning, respectively. Lane’ role here is quite similar to the one she played in Kimberly Peirce’s version of “Carrie” in 2013. In both films, she plays the overprotective mother whose love blinded her reasons and judgment. Though she only appears a few times in the present movie, her character is significant, marked and unforgettable. Similarly, newcomer Macdonald delivers well with her nuances of tenderness, weakness, insecurity, bitterness and hunger. 

    Every Secret Thing is supposedly exciting, mesmerizing and intriguing. However, most of the elements of a watchable movie seem to work against it. For its original story material and brilliant cast, I give two and a half stars out of five for the film.


     


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    We may pursue many dreams but it is always our passions that will give our lives deeper meaning. I am an agricultural engineer by records, a university instructor by profession, and a blogger by heart...

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