Secrets & Lies

October 25, 1996 0 By Fans
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)


Successful black woman traces her birth mother to a lower-class white woman, who denies it; emotions run high as everyone's secrets are exposed.

Release Year: 1996

Rating: 8.0/10 (17,195 voted)

Critic's Score: 91/100

Mike Leigh

Stars: Timothy Spall, Brenda Blethyn, Phyllis Logan

Cynthia lives in London with her sullen street-sweeper daughter. Her brother has been successful with his photographer's business and now lives nearby in a more upmarket house. But Cynthia hasn't even been invited round there after a year. So, all round, she feels rather lonely and isolated. Meanwhile, in another part of town, Hortense, adopted at birth but now grown up, starts to try and trace her mother.


Timothy Spall

Maurice Purley

Phyllis Logan

Monica Purley

Brenda Blethyn

Cynthia Rose Purley

Claire Rushbrook

Roxanne Purley

Marianne Jean-Baptiste

Hortense Cumberbatch

Elizabeth Berrington


Michele Austin


Lee Ross


Lesley Manville

Social Worker

Ron Cook


Emma Amos

Girl with Scar

Brian Bovell

Hortense's Brother

Trevor Laird

Hortense's Brother

Claire Perkins

Hortense's Sister-in-Law

(as Clare Perkins)

Elias Perkins McCook

Hortense's Nephew

Roxanne drives her mother crazy. Maurice never speaks to his niece. Cynthia has a shock for her family. Monica can't talk to her husband. Hortense has never met her mother.

Release Date: 25 October 1996

Filming Locations: Holborn Underground Station, Holborn, London, England, UK

Box Office Details

Budget: $4,500,000


Opening Weekend: $60,813
(29 September 1996)
(4 Screens)

Gross: $13,417,292
(18 May 1997)

Technical Specs



Did You Know?


The restaurant where Cynthia and Hortense meet for lunch is "Pasta Plus Restaurant", a family-run Italian restaurant on 62 Eversholt Street, Camden, London. The restaurant is still open to the public (Monday to Saturday) and is very close to Euston station.


Crew or equipment visible:
When Roxanne pushes Cynthia onto the bed, the shadow of a crew member's head is seen moving on the bed.


[last lines]

Cynthia Purley:
This is the life, innit sweethearts?

User Review

A great layering of memorable characters


It took a second viewing of Mike Leigh's 'Secrets and Lies' to reveal the
depth of its genius. I love character-driven drama, and this film succeeds
in creating indelible portraits. Even the social worker is quirky and
memorable instead of just furthering the plot and being patently

I could write quite a lot about Blethyn's riveting performance. How drained
she must have been after sustaining a character who seems always at the
height of emotional pressure. Opposite her, Jean-Baptiste seemed as cool
and smooth as could be. The contrasts created by these personae even
extended to costume and decor.

I decided to watch this movie again because after a BBC Shakespeare binge I
wanted to see everything Ron Cook has been in. And while the Stuart scene
is really somewhat incongruous to the rest of the family plot, Cook's scene
as the bitter, drunk 't****r' works for me perfectly. So do the scenes of
photo sessions — and it's a matter of observing this film in terms of
clarity of personal vision. The occupations of photographer and optometrist
seem to lend metaphors of spirituality — for Maurice, the ability to see
people as they are, and for Hortense, the ability to understand how others
see the world. The wall of smoke that Cynthia and Roxanne seem to keep in
front of them. The disparity between the images created for the formal
portraits and the truth of the personalities in them. In a distinctly
un-sappy way, Leigh has explored the old adage that "the truth will set you

If one reads a paragraph describing the main plot — the adopted child
seeking out her birth mother — a very clear idea of a movie-of-the-week
story comes to mind. 'Secrets and Lies' is nothing like that, and shows a
mastery of vision and a cast of great talent. My roommate agreed, saying he
thought this was one of the best films he's seen this decade.