Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

If the British are as represented in Academy Award screenwriters Julian Fellows directorial debut ĎSecret Liesí, one must wonder how they ever managed to control much of the free world, displaying simply immeasurable amounts civility. 

Tom Wilkinson is James Manning, a top solicitor with a top firm in London.  A solicitor being some kind of lawyer or something I suppose.  Emily Watson is his wife Anne, who, as far as I can tell, does nothing.  She has no job, they have no children for her to care for, and they have cleaning lady.  So except for occasionally cooking once in a while Anne does whatever reasonably well-off British women do with lots of time on their hands.  This apparently includes f**king around.  The object of Anneís lust is Tom Bule (Rupert Everett).  Tom is an erudite, superior, snob who unabashedly looks down on everyone, and respects no one, including himself, which Anne finds irresistible I suppose.  The trouble actually starts in the first frame of the film, as the cleaning ladyís husband is hit by a speeding Range Rover and eventually dies.  The car looks suspiciously like Tomís, and the cleaning lady (Linda Bassett) saw the accident.  She and Tom have a bit of a history as she once worked for Tomís family until Tom had been arrested for stealing from them.

There are little twists and turns as the story heads one way then turn the other.  Itís all beautifully acted and excellently paced and is one of the better films Iíve seen this year.  The film is less about the mystery and more about British society and class.  When James discovers Anneís infidelity, he is initially upset, but soon comes to terms with it as long as she promises not to do it again.  Unfortunately for their marriage,

Anne has to have it from Tom on a regular basis.  As Anne explains it, since Tom has no standards, she has no standards to ascend to.  Unlike her demanding, perfection seeking husband.  Women, if thatís the way you all really feel, I have no standards either.  E-mail me with the glorious knowledge that you will have to ascend to nothing.

The thing that I find fascinating in this film is the matter-of-fact calmness in which cheating husbands and wives, dead gardeners, police cover-ups are handled.  There seems to be some decorum involved with these events that I was not aware of.  If my wife cheats on me, I act a total fool, break everything in the house, and call my mother in law to let her know her daughters a whore.  What I DON'T do is have civil lunches and dinners with my wife and her lover, wish them all the best, all the while assisting the lover in covering up a hit and run homicide.  But Iím not British.  Thank God.  There are poignant scenes in this film with James and Anne discussing the situation with frankness and honesty that I really couldnít connect with because I DONĒT TALK TO F**KING WHORES!!!  But thatís just me.

Anyway, this is a fine film.  And if the whole whore thing doesnít bother you, this slice of British aristocracy will engross you.  Whore.

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