Review by Sean Boelman
Actress Noomi Rapace made her big break with the modern classic revenge thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, so it is a welcome treat to see her return to the genre with Yuval Adler’s The Secrets We Keep. And while there are a few pacing issues with the film, its unique twist on familiar tropes makes it an entertaining watch.
The movie follows an immigrant in post-WWII America who, while trying to build a suburban life with her American husband, discovers that her neighbor may be the man that caused her trauma during the war. Built around a blend of kidnapping and revenge tropes, the film ultimately works better as a character drama than a thriller because of its more human approach to storytelling.
Like most movies about a protagonist seeking revenge, the film is about trauma and what it takes to heal from the wounds inflicted on a person, both physically and emotionally. There are some occasional moments of brutality, and while they do have an impact, they feel like they are done out of obligation rather than in service of the story and its themes.
There is a clear attempt at forming a mystery here, but the movie doesn’t quite succeed in translating its ambiguity into suspense. The film’s focus is on trust and who it is that can be believed. The issues with this messaging are a whole different conversation, but the movie does not take full advantage of this attempt at an unreliable narrator.
That said, the character work on display here is very interesting. The film takes these characters that the audience thinks they know and have seen before and puts a spin on them, casting a cloud of doubt over the movie. Seeing the tables turned is nothing new, but the film builds a dynamic between the characters that is quite intriguing.
Of course, some of the movie’s success in this regard is owed to the strong performances from Rapace and her co-star Joel Kinnaman. They feed off of each other’s energy in a way that creates the feeling of tension that the script is lacking. Chris Messina is also a standout in his supporting role, having some of the best scenes in the film.
Visually, the movie is solid if mostly safe. The film has a very old-school vibe to it, and this is going to help it appeal to its core older audience. Adler’s style meshes really well with the 1950s suburban setting in which the movie takes place, although it would have been nice had he done a bit more with these ideas.
The Secrets We Keep is a more compelling drama than it is a revenge thriller, so it would have been nice had it focused on those strengths. Still, an excellent ensemble keeps this film moving quite well, so it’s definitely worth a watch.
The Secrets We Keep hits theaters on September 16 and VOD on October 16.