Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Secret

When we first meet Francois (as a seven year old...Valentin Vigourt) he accompanies his mother to the beach from a seemingly comfortable Paris existence. His ideal world has glossed over the fragments of his memories from the anti-semitism of the German occupation, tethering together pieces of reality to his imagination. He has a pretend brother who possesses the athleticism that he lacks, his parents are the epitome of fitness and perfection. The young Francois has no idea that his fantasy world is rooted in a forgotten reality.

We next meet Francois as an adult (Mathieu Almaric). His childhood was detailed in full color. In adulthood, the film is done in black and white. I guess the concept allows for transition back and forth between the time periods without explanation or confusion. Francois has been summoned by his mother, Tania (Cecile de France) because his father Maxime (Patrick Bruel) has wandered off after the family dog is hit by a car. As Francois returns to find his father, he recounts his story.

Most of the story unfolds as Francois turns fifteen (Quentin Dubois). Francois' neighbor is a long-time family friend, Louise (Julie Depardieu). She has treated Francois with Vitamin D shots since he was little. As Francois begins remembering events, Louise assists him on his journey of self-discovery. During this revelation, Francois learns that many of the bits and pieces of his fantasy world are shards of whispers and memories that have a foundation in events that occurred during the war. Events that cast a pall on his Utopian view of his family. It allows Francois to draw contrasts and come to grips with his own life and to find closure for himself and others close to him.

Without spoiling any plot concepts, A Secret examines the balancing act between what a family will do to survive against compromising their beliefs. It is an interesting examination of family dynamics, perceived balance and reality. In the end, maybe there never really is any balance...only acceptance of what is. Or maybe there is only survival. A Secret challenges viewers with an imperfect set of circumstances and an ending that doesn't not tie everything together neatly, leaving the sense that there are not always happy endings.

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