Based on the novel of the same name by best-selling author Laura Lippman and adapted for screen by Nicole Holofcener, Every Secret Thing is a psychological crime drama featuring the talents of Diane Lane, Elizabeth Banks, Dakota Fanning, and newcomer Danielle Macdonald. The film is creepy, to a certain extent insightful, and offers a disturbing look at the consequences brought on by the secrets we keep.
While walking home from a bad experience at a birthday party, Ronnie and Alice (Eva Grace Kellner and Brynne Norquist as the younger versions of these respective characters) find a baby in a stroller sitting on somebody’s porch. Cut to a series of newspaper articles (along with the opening credits and some chilling music) that reveal the baby to be the granddaughter of Orangetown, NY’s “first black judge” who at first was missing, but then found dead by a “rookie cop” who got “promoted to detective”. Ronnie and Alice, whom one of the newspapers identifies as “11 year old white girls from opposite sides of the track”, are arrested, tried as minors, and sentenced to “seven years in a detention facility”.
Now, shortly after they are released, Ronnie and Alice (Fanning and Macdonald) are trying to get their lives back on track when another mixed race baby goes missing and they become the prime suspects in an investigation lead by Detective Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks); the very same detective who solved the case seven years earlier and whom is still haunted by the death of that baby. A series of flashbacks reveal what really happened to the first baby as the investigation digs into the girls’ families (including Diane Lane as Alice’s seemingly overprotective mother) and their time in the detention facility in a race to stop history from repeating itself.
The actors are great. Banks can play a dramatic role very well, contrary to the types of roles she typically takes on. Fanning has been top-notch in just about every role she has “taken”; and newcomer Danielle Macdonald really is “scary good”. Kellner and Norquist are well matched as the younger versions of Fanning and Macdonald.
While the level of talent both in front of and behind the camera is great; any viewer looking for a thought-provoking mystery may be disappointed as the mystery is weak and mostly predictable. There are some twists that may surprise viewers or keep them in suspense; but the suspects for the get narrowed down pretty quickly and from there it’s just a matter of figuring out/revealing why all parties involved did what they did both in the present and past cases.
Ignoring the mystery aspect, Every Secret Thing has a compelling story that is fascinating and even heartbreaking at times. It presents an insightful look at troubled children/teens and struggling families as they deal with both every day issues and extraordinary circumstances. Just one thing that bothers me is why was the first baby left alone in a stroller on a porch; an issue that the movie never really addresses as far as I remember.
Opening in theaters and On Demand May 15th.