Every Secret Thing
Directed by Amy Berg
Two girls steal an infant and kill it through a combination of neglect, ignorance and fear. That (fictional) incident lies at the center of this movie—an event so ghastly that its pain echoes out to everyone involved seven years later. Because the death occurred at the hands of children, it’s easy and reasonable to dismiss it as a horrid mistake made by kids who may not act on the same impulses even a year later. But then the girls are released from prison and another child disappears under similar circumstances. Is it coincidence, or are the girls—to put it simply—evil? Every Secret Thing (which screens Sunday evening) has an answer to that question, and it’s the least satisfying part of the film, an answer that not only awkwardly redefines the film’s narrative but also its genre.
The movie was directed by Amy Berg and written by Nicole Holofcener, far removed from the gentle insights of Lovely & Amazing or Enough Said. While Berg’s previous credits, the documentaries Deliver Us From Evil and West of Memphis, covered similarly uncomfortable moral terrain, neither seem especially comfortable balancing the elements of procedural drama with the personal themes that presumably drew them to the material (Laura Lippman’s novel) in the first place. The film’s key character—Diane Lane, playing mother to one of the girls and surrogate mother to the other—is shunted off in favor of a more traditional, less interesting hero, Elizabeth Banks’s cop. It’s always interesting when independent filmmakers try their hands at genre fare, since they often infuse it with idiosyncratic styles and obsessions (example: Inside Man). In this case, the genre overwhelms its makers, and their qualities appear only faintly. That’s enough to make Every Secret Thing a solid entry among procedurals, but nothing more. Ryan Vlastelica
Verdict: Skip if You Want