A Secret

First Hit: This is an excellent French film about a man uncovering the hidden past of his father and family as it unfolded during a difficult and intense period of our history.

Based on a true story, this film floats between three different time periods but all within a 40 year time span.

Although it is a story about Francois Grimbert’s discovery about his life through the story of his mother and father’s life he really isn’t the main character. In fact I was hard pressed to say there was a main character.

The roles are so well interwoven that it is the whole film that becomes the focus and the beneficiary is the audience. At the age of 14 Francois’ Aunt Louise (played by Julie Depardieu) begins to reveal the story of his parent’s life.

Patrick Bruel plays the father, Maxime Nathan Grinberg, an athletic, distant and driven man who marries Hannah Golda Sirn (played by Ludivine Sagnier) and, together, they have a son. This son is a person who pops into Francois’ dreams as his brother and generally the audience sees him in black and white imagery during the dream sequences.

At Maxime and Hannah’s wedding, Maxime meets his wife’s brother’s wife Tania (played by Cecile De France). Maxime gazes at her with longing interest and she quickly and appropriately diverts her attention. She makes clear that his attention is unwanted.

Tania’s husband has been taken by the Germans and is in a camp somewhere and Tania is living with hope that her husband is safe and that she’ll see him again. Maxine’s initial gaze, over the years, causes a disturbance in Maxime and Hannah’s relationship.

Additionally, circumstances of World War II cause beliefs and truths to be lived and the acknowledgement and non-acknowledgement of their Judaism becomes another deep separating wound between Hannah and Maxime. This is the story leading up to the beginning of Francois’ life.

Sagnier, De France, and Depardieu were outstanding in their roles. Bruel was strong and the incongruence of his face and inner lying feelings was a key element in this film. However, the imagery of “his brother” at times I thought was a little distracting and inconsistent. But in the end I felt the director did the material justice.

Overall: It took about 15 minutes for me to slide into this film and its intention to tell a story. By the end of this film I was hooked by both the acting and the story.