HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Every Secret Thing
HTS Overall Score:66
What makes child kidnapping and murder so abhorrent to us? I mean, isn’t regular murder horrific enough? Adults sick and tired of each other, a husband shooting a wife, 2 thugs missing their target and hitting a bystander? What makes the death of a child that much more horrific? I’ve thought about this for years and the only conclusion that I can come to is that it comes down to a level of innocence. As horrifying and wrong as murder is, there is a level above when you kill someone who is completely helpless, someone who has no way of protecting themselves in any way, shape, or form. Translate this to a movie where the writer of the novel once said that she had created a tale of three irredeemable women and you get the gist of what “Every Secret Thing” is about. It’s a semi flawed film in the execution, but the tension and the gut wrenching horror at what these women have done and continue to do is incredibly tactile.
Alice Manning (Brynne Norquist …11 year old version, Danielle Macdonald..18 year old version) and Ronnie Fuller (Eva Grace Kellner…11 years old, Dakota Fanning..18 year old version) were both convicted of kidnapping and murdering an infant child when they were 11 years old. Both outcasts, Ronnie from the poorer side of that group, and Alice being the chubby, awkward outcast. Walking home one day they spotted a half black, half white baby in a carriage when the babysitter was being a bit lax. For some reason they took her and were caught 3 days later, after the child had died. Now 7 years later, after getting out from Juvenile prison, the two girls are once again caught up in another kidnapping. A 3 year old child was kidnapped straight out of a department store when no one was looking and now all eyes are trained on the two girls. Ronnie is mousy and shy, working at a bagel shop and Alice is disturbingly naïve, spending her days walking around town, shuffling off looking for a job while her twisted and verbally abusive mother (Diane Lane) hen pecks her to death.
The investigation is helmed by none other than Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks), the same rookie cop who found the original child 7 years earlier and put the Alice and Ronnie behind bars. Investigating the girls seems easy at first, but soon becomes a nightmare as both girls refuse to cooperate and point the finger at each other. As time runs out for the kidnapped girl, Nancy and her partner have to uncover the mystery, piece by piece, in an effort to unravel just WHO is telling the truth. Is it the bad girl Ronnie with secrets to hide? Or is it the naïve and social awkward Alice? Only time will tell, and that is one thing that the victim and Nancy Porter have very little of.
It seems that “Every Secret Thing” was lambasted when it came out and raked over the coals on many critical reviews. After watching the taught thriller I can understand where some of the criticism came from, but I was still highly entertained and horrified by the film. Written by Nicole Holofcener, creator of such fantastic films as “Enough Said” and “Please Give”, and the novel by Laura Lippman, the movie is nothing if not intense and invigorating (and more than a bit horrifying). It’s really a tale about 3 irredeemable women, and the consequences of their actions. Alice is the “fat girl”, overweight and abused, and her mother is not much better. Constantly berating and glossing over her daughter’s feelings, she spends most of her time comparing her to Ronnie and twisting everything into Alice’s fault. Ronnie is poor, mistreated and alone, but her only friend is in the highly manipulative Mrs. Manning. Dakota Fanning has fallen out of favor with the general populace recently and forced into more direct to video roles, but I have to say that she really shines here. Gone is the awkward and stilted dialog she’s forced to give in “Twilight” and “Push” and her talent is actually allowed to shine. Diane Lane coasts through the film, but really even coasting she’s better than most actresses who work their tail off. Banks does the job of Nancy Porter quite well, and surprisingly enough, rapper Common, is really powerful in his simplistic role as the step dad of the kidnapped girl. I only wish he had been given a bit more screen time, as his character was extremely well acted. Macdonald has to carry the last act of the film, and that’s a bit of a mistake, because as good as she is for the horribly uncomfortable character of Alice, she doesn’t have the chops to pull off a feat like carrying part of movie by herself.
There are certainly flaws in “Every Secret Thing”. I couldn’t help but see them, even though I enjoyed the film quite a lot. Certain plot lines, such as Common being grilled by Nancy’s partner, seem to fade off into the background clumsily, as if there was more in the book that explained that bit. Also the ending ties together a bit too neatly too fast. We’ve spent over an hour of tension filled time looking for the little girl, and then it becomes a little too obvious, too early who the “main” villain is in the picture. With that being said there is more than enough villain to go around in this story. Alice is twisted and certainly almost evil, but Ronnie’s actions are not better, which IS why the two of them go to jail (even though Alice screams her innocence from the rooftops). Even worse, Alice’s mother is the most manipulative and semi cruel woman I’ve seen in a while and it’s very obvious to see where Alice gets her manipulative tendencies from.
Rated R for some language and disturbing images
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=49889[/img]Released on DVD with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in the MPEG2 compression format, “Every Secret Thing” is a satisfactory little low budget thriller. Shot on digital cameras and with very little light for much of the runtime, it suffers from some crushed blacks and a teensy bit of digital noise, but overall looks quite good. Those blacks are a tad crushed and obscure shadow detail, but there are a goodly amount of bright scenes as well, and those scenes look a LOT more detailed. Compression artifacts (besides the crush) seem to be very minimal and don’t detract from the brooding and grimly shot film’s style. Colors are burnished and golden in hue, giving a very haunted and worn look when combined with the dark cinematography. It’s a solid image, with only a slight hampering with those crushed blacks.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=49897[/img]The 5.1 Dolby Digital English track is more than enough to satisfy listeners, as the intense soundtrack permeates the listening environment. Mostly front heavy, it still manages to bring some great ambiance to the movie, with a creepy score and more than enough surround activity with the crunching of leaves on a sidewalk, or the screaming of a mother for her baby. LFE is deep and powerful, adding some nice low end punch to up the intensity level. The dialog is about as crisp and clean as you can be for the DVD format, and I had no issues with the balance between effects and dialog. A solid A- from Anchor Bay.
• Deleted Scenes
The intensity of the movie is rolled out in bits, with only pieces of the whole story known at one time. Put together like a reverse jigsaw puzzle, we see the aftermath of the tale first, with what is publically known out in the papers, but as the story unfolds a puzzle piece is taken off the table, revealing another chunk of what REALLY happened and what is really happening now. It’s not always execute properly, but it was actually really entertaining for a majority of the film. Sadly the movie isn’t out on Blu-ray, but the DVD handles the movie rather nicely and I wouldn’t hesitate recommending this as a fun little rental to those of you who like disturbing thrillers.
Starring: Diane Lane, Dakota Fanning, Common, Elizabeth Banks
Director: Amy Berg
Written By: Nicole Holofcener (screenplay), Laura Lippman (Novel)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 MPEG2
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1
Studio: Anchor Bay
Runtime: 93 Minutes
DVD Release Date: July 14th, 2015
Buy Every Secret Thing DVD on Amazon
Recommendation: Decent Rental
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