Monday, 27 March 2017

The Secret Scripture


The Secret Scripture appeared in the cinema listings despite having no visible advertising campaign.  The fact that it was not Kong: Skull Island was enough to convince me that it should be my film of choice. 

PLOT:  After being assigned to evaluate Rose (Vanessa Redgrave), an elderly patient who has been incarcerated in a mental institute for over forty years, Dr Grene (Eric Bana) finds himself listening to her story.  Rose tells Dr Grene of her love affair with Michael (Jack Reynor), the inappropriate attentions of Father Gaunt (Theo James) and the events leading up to her being arrested for killing her new born son.  END PLOT

The plot of The Secret Scripture is a familiar tale of forbidden love, this time set in rural Ireland in during World War Two.  The action jumps back and forth from present day to 1942, although the film only really comes to life during the flashbacks.  The love story between Rose and Michael is sweet but their time together is little more than a brief dalliance which lasts no more than a few weeks.  It may have been true love but the only emotion I felt during the entire film was anger at the corruption of the local priest, judgemental nuns and the complete lack of compassion the church used to show young Irish women.  It was a dark time and it will always be an uncomfortable topic.  Unfortunately, The Secret Scripture did not deal with these plot points in any great depth.

Vanessa Redgrave was excellent as the elderly Rose and Rooney Mara held her own playing the younger Rose.  On paper Mara seemed like an odd casting choice but she proved to be more than capable.  Despite being Australian, Eric Bana’s accent appeared to be channelling an American attempting to conquer the Northern Irish accent.  The Northern Irish accent is a tough one to crack, and although Bana’s isn’t the worst I’ve heard, it wasn’t particularly successful.

Theo James is not an actor I am familiar with and his performance has not inspired me to pay attention to his career.  Scowling and staring while scowling is not character development.  I would have liked his character to have been held accountable for his actions.  The explanation that the church does what the church does was probably realistic but it was not satisfying.

The supporting cast, which included the underused Aidan Turner, was made up of vaguely familiar faces.  It was nice to see that Pauline McFlynn has finally grown into Mrs Doyle.

The Secret Scripture is a gorgeous film and Ireland looks exactly how you would expect it to in the 1940’s.   It captured the period well with woollen clothing, thatched roofs and dance halls all being present and correct.  The film was set in May and it looked appropriately cold.

The biggest problem with The Secret Scripture is that I felt like I had seen it all before.  The running time was only 1hour 48mins but I caught myself looking at my watch as I already knew how the film was going to end – the plot twist was not well written, hidden or revealed.  The story needed to be meatier and was saved by the performances of Redgrave and Mara.

Overall The Secret Scripture is a fine film which just about killed an evening at the cinema. It gets 6/10.  The Secret Scripture is worth a look on Netflix on a rainy Sunday afternoon or if you are wanting to avoid a noisy blockbuster.  

It's disappointing that it is instantly regrettable.