Friday, July 5, 2013

The Secret (Si j'étais toi) (2007) [R] ***

Set in Williamstown, a small town in the northwest corner of Massachusetts, this is the strange story of Dr. Ben Marris, his wife and their teenage daughter. Ben (David Duchovny) is an optometrist, and his wife Hannah (Lili Taylor) is a housewife. Both of them have been struggling to understand and communicate with their rebellious daughter Samantha (Olivia Thirlby) who's an excellent high school student but has begun experimenting with alcohol, drugs and sex. One day Hanna and Samantha get into an argument while Hannah is driving the car, there's a terrible accident and both end up side-by-side in intensive care, clinging to life. As Ben watches, Samantha starts to slip away. Desperately, Hannah reaches out to her daughter, holding her wrist tightly, and both mother and daughter seem to die at the same moment. But Samantha still has a pulse and when she awakens in the recovery room she has all of her mother's memories, personality and behavioral traits, and none of her own.

At first Ben tries to deny what has happened, but gradually he grows convinced that he's living with his wife Hannah in the body of his daughter Samantha. Reluctantly, Hannah returns to high school and by connecting with Samantha's friends, and reading her journal, she begins to discover her daughter. And then the questions come tumbling forth. If Hannah is possessing Samantha's body, where is Samantha's spirit? Will Samantha's spirit ever return to claim her body, and what will happen to Hannah's spirit? Can Hannah really pretend to be her own daughter? What will Ben and Hannah's relationship be like in the privacy of their home? Will they be able to keep this a secret? Can Ben ever live a normal life again?

This is a romantic drama with a mysterious, supernatural quality; it's mildly suspenseful, but definitely not a thriller or a horror film. To the extent that we believe what Ben and Hannah/Samantha are experiencing, the film is quite successful. To its credit, the screenplay treads lightly when dealing with the sexual tension between the two, or the possibility that a third person might discover their secret and have to be told the truth. David Duchovny is an accomplished actor, but this is Olivia Thirlby's film and she is excellent, convincingly playing both mother and daughter in a single body (Si j'étais toi, the film's alternate French title, translates as If I were you). This is a thought-provoking film, as any mother with a teenage daughter can attest. If you enjoyed Peggy Sue Got Married, then I believe you will enjoy The Secret

Labels: drama, fantasy, mystery, romance, tragedy

Internet Movie Database
Tomatometer (critics=NA,viewers=44)
Wikipedia: The Secret (film)

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