The Secret Life of Words Isabel Croixet

There’s an erroneous belief, one that still lingers, that so-called "independent films” are somehow more honest and advanced than Hollywood’s 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 it’s 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; it’s 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 can’t tell you what that confession is, but as it’s been airlifted into a situation that doesn’t prepare you for it, it just seems melodramatic and false, which, when you consider the subject it broaches, is inexcusable. Of course, we’ve been cued long before the reveal that this film won’t mean business, which is topped off with Robbins’ ridiculous capper to a bad anecdote about why he can’t swim. There’s no real reason for this movie to exist; it’s 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 it’s of world-historical importance, and it only makes it more ridiculous when it tries to tell you how crucial it is that you listen. It’s for the very sheltered, very humourless, or the very easily amused. (Mongrel Media)