One of Claude Miller's most personal films to date, "A Secret" also is among the strongest in a 40-year career that yielded the memorable 1981 crime drama "Under Suspicion."
Adapted by Miller and Natalie Carter from the Philippe Grimbert autobiographical novel, this stirring period portrait of a French family harboring a dark past takes familiar subject matter and casts it in a provocative setting.
It also has in leads Cecile De France, Ludivine Sagnier and Julie Depardieu three of the today's top French actresses -- Depardieu won a Caesar Award for her supporting performance -- making it a smart U.S. acquisition for Strand Releasing. "Secret" recently screened at the City of Lights, City of Angels festival.
Set primarily during the 1950s, the film is seen through the eyes of Francois Grimbert, a gawky, introverted 14-year-old who has always felt like a disappointment to his gregarious, athletic father (Patrick Bruel) and beautiful, former swim champ mother (De France).
There turns out to be justification for his deep-seated feelings of inadequacy, as Francois uncovers uncomfortable truths about his parents' lives as a young Jewish couple living in France during the Occupation.
To reveal anything more wouldn't be fair to this intriguing study in guilt and forgiveness, and the personal choices made that would reverberate throughout subsequent generations.
Incorporating a beautifully shot, clever color schematic, Miller, himself a child of the Holocaust, shifts effortlessly between three distinct time periods, while the exceptionally cast performers (also including "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly's" Mathieu Amalric as the adult Francois) imbue their generously written roles with both a palpable passion and a heartbreaking vulnerability.