Un secret is a French movie by writer/director Claude Miller, based on Philippe Grimbert‘s [French] autobiographic book [French] and starring Cécile de France, Patrick Bruel, Ludivine Sagnier, Julie Depardieu and Mathieu Almaric.
The movie tells the story of François [in order of age: Valentin Vigourt, Quentin Dubuis and Mathieu Almaric] and his parents [Cécile de France, Patrick Bruel] in the 50s, 60s and today, respectively.
He always was a small, rather sick child and harshly felt the disappointment from his father, an athlete himself. To compensate for that, François imagines to have the perfect brother, who achieves all the things he doesn’t dare to.
But more things are going on in this family than just an overcompensating little boy in past-war France. And François slowly uncovers the secrets that are kept from him.
This really is a well-written, well-acted and well-made movie that I thoroughly enjoyed – after it stopped trying to surprise me.
[SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS]
The big revelation of “the secret” was “yeah, so it’s pretty much what I thought it would be, can we get on with the story now?”. I mean – look at the plot description I gave you and look at the poster and then let me tell you that they are Jewish. What do you think happened?
If you say that there actually was a (half-)brother and a former wife, who got deported – BINGO.
Of course, there are more details to the story, but these basics were clear after about 15 minutes into the film.
Once the film maker revealed the secret (about 45 minutes in) and got the whole “do you know what happened? [yes] I bet you don’t! [but I do] Wait here’s another hint. [STOP THAT!]” thing over with, you could concentrate on the story itself and, more importantly, on the characters.
And what characters they were!
First of all, I haven’t seen a movie in a long time that passes the Bechdel test as easily as this one – despite the main character being male. Plus, there’s a lesbian character, which in itself is already an achievement.
And then every single one of the protagonists is a fully rounded human being, not a stereotype. It is wonderful to watch, especially since the acting is phenomenal. It really was such a joy to watch that I can easily forgive the problems with the story telling I had.
And the directing really was very good. I loved how Miller showed us the fantasies of the boy by given us glimpses of scenes that we later saw in their actual setting. This juxtapositioning added a lot to the complexity of the story.
It’s a difficult story to tell, full of moral ambiguity. Therefore it is especially disappointing that the film tries so hard to surprise the audience. But apart from that, I really enjoyed it a lot and can recommend it to anyone.