Secret Life of Words, The (Spain; 115 min.)

directed by: Isabel Coixet
starring: Sarah Polley; Tim Robbins; Javier Cámara
The Secret Life of Words

Michael says: "On a recent trip to New York City, we caught THE SECRET LIFE OF WORDS, Isabel Coixet’s (MY LIFE WITHOUT ME) latest film, on opening day. Coixet alum Sarah Polley stars as Hanna, a young deaf woman who lives her life following a mind-numbing routine doing factory work, eating the same meals of chicken, apples and rice, and turning her hearing aid off when she doesn’t want the outside world to intrude. After her manager forces her to take a month of vacation time, she finds herself calling upon her old skills as a nurse to care for Josef, a man (Tim Robbins) who was severely burned in an oil rig accident. Despite her cool interaction with Josef and the handful of men on the rig, she slowly begins to build tentative relationships with those around her. Josef, who is temporarily blind from the accident, calls her Cora and invents a life of her when she declines to talk about herself. At first he is garrulous and talkative, but as the days go by, she responds to his outgoing personality, the walls around her slowly dropping. Then, three-quarters of the way through the film, Hanna reveals her hidden self in a monologue that hits both Josef and the audience like a sledgehammer. Suddenly THE SECRET LIFE OF WORDS becomes another film entirely as the vague strands of mystery surrounding Hanna come together to tell a horrific tale.

"Some critics have complained that the revelations come too late to save the film, but I enjoyed the disjointed exploration of the lives aboard the rig. The supporting cast, including Javier Cámara (TALK TO HER) the rig’s chef, and Eddie Marsan (VERA DRAKE) as a company man counting wave strikes on the rig, have interesting stories of their own that are barely touched upon, but add depth to the film. Julie Christie, who worked with Polley in NO SUCH THING, and stars in her forthcoming directorial debut, AWAY FROM HER, is amazing in a small supporting role. But it’s Robbins, and particularly Polley, along with Coixet’s powerful screenplay, and fine cinematography from Jean-Claude Larrieu who bring THE SECRET LIFE OF WORDS vividly to life. It’s a transformational film both for the characters and the viewer, and when I urge you to see it when it opens next year in Boston. 4 cats"

Ivy says: "I watched this at last week's Eye Opener in Boston. I know that it has premiered in NY and LA but is going to go straight to video for the rest of the US so I definitely wanted to get word out about the film so that you can all keep an eye out for it when it is released.

"This is the newest film by director Isabel Coixet (MY LIFE WITHOUT ME) and has her working again with actress Sarah Polley. The film is an interesting study in the process of grief and guilt, but you don't even really know that for most of the film. All that you know is that there is something haunting or bothering Polley's character, Hannah.

"I highly recommend catching this film, even if on video. I found the script to be very impressive and the acting a joy to watch. I always thought that Sarah Polley was talented, but this film raised the bar in how strong a performance she can give."

Barbara says: "I think everyone should put this on their list of films to see. At first I thought it was rather plodding but then I got caught up in it. Very emotional and when everything becomes clear it is a jolt. Tim Robbins, Sara Polley and Javier Camara all deserve recognition. Cinematography was noteworthy as well. 4 ½ cats."