The Secret Life of Words Isabel Coixet

The Secret Life of Words Isabel Coixet
This is the second collaboration for Spanish writer-director Isabel Coixet and Canadian actor Sarah Polley; their 2003 film, My Life Without Me, won Polley her third Best Actress Genie but met otherwise with mixed reviews.

In Secret Life, Polley is a silent factory worker whose austere life belies a dark past. Sent on mandatory leave, she takes a job on a North Sea oilrig nursing a badly injured man, played with natural resilience by Tim Robbins. The isolation of the symbolic rig allows the two, along with a very few supporting characters, to develop a relationship based on the need for solitude in a dark and turbulent world.

The performances by Polley and Robbins are rock solid; Polley brilliantly conveys a world of pain with a silent glance and Robbins’s boyish looks become even more compelling as he grizzles and greys. But the film takes a few missteps: there’s a narration fore and aft that muddies the waters, and a few scenes following the cathartic climax of the film felt earnest and unnecessarily expository, even if they did star the unassailably great Julie Christie.

Even so, I was so moved by the heartbreak of the two leads that I had to walk around for a while after screening the film, which ultimately describes the necessity of carrying on, in spite of the horror we sometimes bear. (Mongrel Media)