Published Feb 19, 2007Theres an erroneous belief, one that still lingers, that so-called "independent films are somehow more honest and advanced than Hollywoods product. In reality, most pseudo-indies jump to the same questionable assumptions as Tinseltown and shrink them to sizes too small for us to actually enjoy. Hence, The Secret Life of Words, which thinks its dealing with important material but merely uses it for questionable melodramatic effect. Subject number one is Hanna (Sarah Polley), a hearing-impaired loner of indeterminate Eastern European background; its indeterminate largely because Polley has a bad accent, but never mind that. After some tortuous exposition, she winds up on an oilrig nursing a badly burned and temporarily blinded man (Tim Robbins) who chips away at her reticence until she makes "a shocking confession. I cant tell you what that confession is, but as its been airlifted into a situation that doesnt prepare you for it, it just seems melodramatic and false, which, when you consider the subject it broaches, is inexcusable. Of course, weve been cued long before the reveal that this film wont mean business, which is topped off with Robbins ridiculous capper to a bad anecdote about why he cant swim. Theres no real reason for this movie to exist; its just a series of emotional punches that never connect, either with the audience or the attached "social issues that are supposed to give them importance. The film is totally inconsequential but seems to think that its of world-historical importance, and it only makes it more ridiculous when it tries to tell you how crucial it is that you listen. Its for the very sheltered, very humourless, or the very easily amused.