In Mike Leigh's emotionally affecting film Secrets & Lies, set in London, Hortense (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), a black optometrist whose adoptive mother has recently died, decides to track down her birth mother.
She turns out to be a white factory worker who never expected to see the girl she gave up as a baby. Cynthia (Brenda Blethyn) is a nurturing woman whose other daughter Roxanne (Claire Rushbrook) scorns her neediness. Although her younger brother Maurice (Timothy Spall) has deep feelings for Cynthia, his upwardly mobile wife Monica (Phyllis Logan) doesn't much like her. In exasperation, Maurice, a mild-mannered portrait photographer, asks, "Why do the people I love most in the world hate each other's guts?"
When all of these characters get together at Maurice's new suburban home for a party, long repressed family secrets and resentments come to the surface. Hortense's presence serves as a catalyst for some surprising personal transformations involving love, forgiveness, and the spiritual practice of hospitality.
Writer and director Mike Leigh has a special talent for shedding light on the fears and fantasies of English middle- and working-class individuals, a group overlooked by so many other filmmakers.
Secrets & Lies rings true with its offbeat and deliciously ripe moments when people relax and reveal themselves in raw intimacy.