Title: Every Secret Thing

Director: Amy Berg

Starring: Elizabeth Banks, Diane Lane, Dakota Fanning, Nate Parker and Danielle Macdonald

Emotional scars and memories not only reflect your past and how your experiences have shaped your beliefs, but can also haunt you and prevent you from moving forward in your life. Your determined journey to redemption, so that you can finally take control of your future and move forward past your harrowing recollections, is the powerful theme in the new crime drama, ‘Every Secret Thing.’ The movie, which marks the narrative feature film directorial debut of filmmaker Amy Berg, and is set to be released in theaters and on VOD and iTunes tomorrow, is based on Laura Lippman’s soul-searching novel of the same name. The adaptation, which was written by Nicole Holofcener, powerfully proves that no matter how flawed a person’s past is, if they’re determined enough and capable of confrontation, they can effectively build a new life and successfully move forward.

‘Every Secret Thing’ follows the violate relationship between two elementary school aged neighbors, Alice Manning and Ronnie Fuller, as they conspire to kidnap and murder a biracial infant. After being tried and convicted of the crime as minors, they’re released from a juvenile correction facility when they turn 18 (now played by Danielle Macdonald and Dakota Fanning), and return home to their turbulent families in their small town. The emotionally and psychologically troubled girls are barely home for a couple weeks when they suddenly become persons of interest when a biracial toddler is abducted from her mother, Maveen Little (Sara Sokolovic), and stepfather (Common), in a store.

Detective Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks), who was promoted after heroically solving the case of the girls’ crime when they were children, is drawn back into working on the new abduction with her partner, Jones (Nate Parker). The two partners soon focus their attention on the girls because of the crimes’ similarities, but have a difficult time eliciting the truth from either suspect. Both Alice and Ronnie continue to accuse each other of being responsible for the first abduction when they were children, and are now strongly asserting their innocence in the second crime.

Besides being questioned by Nancy and Jones, the girls are also struggling with their own emotions and difficulties. Ronnie, who was raised in a poor household with her emotionally distant and unsupportive parents, is socially withdrawn and doesn’t easily trust anyone. Amy, who’s struggling with her body image, is living with her overbearing mother Helen (Diane Lane), who continuously pries into her daughter’s life and thoughts. While Amy and Helen appear to be nonchalant about the most recent abduction and how it affects them, Ronnie, Nancy and the rest of the community ponder what drives a person to commit such a crime, and if people can truly reform and repent for their sins.

With ‘Every Secret Thing,’ Holofcener, who’s known for directing and penning the critically acclaimed 2013 romantic comedy, ‘Enough Said,’ once again effortlessly crafted an insightful, true-to-life exploration into some of the most serious issues people are forced to contend with in their lives. Through Ronnie and Amy’s difficult family dynamics and strained relationships with their peers as children, the scribe grippingly chronicled how young girls harrowingly act out for attention. Ronnie is never truly shown with her family, and her parents are only briefly featured in the crime drama, which astutely stresses how her lack of emotional support from her relatives inspired her to care for a child in a way she never was. Amy, meanwhile, is primarily presented as being innocent of any motivations to wanting to hurt the children, due to her seemingly close relationship with her mother. But Helen’s at-times overbearing influence on her daughter makes it more difficult for her to discern the best way to approach building healthy relationships.

Holofcener also crafted an emotionally driven, passionate and determined authority figure in Nancy, who’s one of the few characters in the drama whose genuine motivations are always truthfully presented without bias. Banks naturally infused the determined detective with a powerful drive to put aside her own feelings of despair about the injustices of the world, especially after being the person who discovered the body of the infant Ronnie and Amy kidnapped, so that she could solve the current crime. No matter what painful memories and reminders that the current kidnapping is bringing up for her from her first high-profile case, or the strain her work is putting on her marriage, Nancy is enthrallingly presented as the film’s most stable and resolute person as she unwaveringly tries to solve her latest case.

‘Every Secret Thing’ is a captivating drama that dauntingly and intriguingly explores the impact horrific crimes have on conventional American towns, particularly on the children who are the victims and purported perpetrators in those violent and immoral acts. While those crimes that involve children are reprehensible and devastating to everyone involved, Berg’s captivating rendering of Holofcener’s thought-provoking script features inspired portrayals of emotionally complex characters who are at the center of those life-shattering moments. Combined with the story’s nuanced showcasing of flawed relationships, including parents thinking they can change their child to become the person they want them to be, and dishonesty breaking the loyalty between friends, the drama proves that without relying on emotional strength to overcome their obstacles, people’s lives will be ruined as they give into others’ misconceptions about them.

Technical: B

Acting: B+

Story: B+

Overall: B+

Written by: Karen Benardello

Every Secret Thing Movie Review

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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