Every Secret Thing (2014)

Every Secret Thing (2014)
  • Time: 93 min
  • Genre: Crime | Drama
  • Director: Amy Berg
  • Cast: Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Banks, Diane Lane, Danielle Macdonald


Detective Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks) is still haunted by her failure to save the life of a missing child from the hands of two young girls. Eight years later, another child goes missing in the same town just days after Ronnie and Alice (Dakota Fanning and newcomer Danielle Macdonald), the two girls convicted of the former crime, were released from juvenile detention. Porter and her partner (Nate Parker) must race against the clock to prevent history from repeating itself. But as they begin to investigate the girls and their families, especially Alice’s protective mother (Diane Lane), they unearth a web of secrets and deceptions that calls everything into question.


  • One’s interest doesn’t just wander when watching Every Secret Thing, it flees with alacrity from the dreariness and banality. Documentarian Amy Berg’s narrative debut is controlled and composed; it should be more interesting than it is given its playground of thematic possibilities – obsessions with mother love and body issues, the seeds that rot instead of flourish, an almost incisive commentary on race, gender, and class. Unfortunately, it sinks so fast into turgidity that it can never hope to recover.

    Alice and Ronnie (Brynne Norquist and Eva Grace Kellner) are seen as eight-year-olds who are outside the periphery of popularity. They share an uneasy bond, one enforced by Alice’s mother Helen (Diane Lane), who has embraced the lonely and friendless Ronnie as if she were her own blood. Walking home after an humiliating experience at a birthday party, Ronnie hears the sound of a crying baby. As the opening credits roll, we learn via a series of newspaper headlines that the biracial baby went missing and was found dead, and that the two girls were sentenced to serve seven years for its murder.

    A decade later, another mixed-race baby goes missing not long after both Alice and Ronnie (Danielle Macdonald and Dakota Fanning) are released from prison. Detective Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks) believes there may be a connection, but her personal stake in the matter may be clouding her judgment. It was Porter who discovered the body of the missing baby ten years ago, a trauma that continues to haunt.

    As she questions both girls, it becomes less and less clear what happened all those years ago. Alice has always pled innocent – she never knew why Ronnie killed the baby, she wasn’t even there when it happened, but she went to jail anyway because “No one ever believes the fat girl.” The meek and mascaraed Ronnie tells Porter that Alice was not only fine with keeping the baby, but threatened to blame it all on Ronnie when she wanted to take the ailing baby to the hospital. If you have somehow managed to survive being drained of life throughout this viewing ordeal, then you may feel somewhat rewarded by the big reveal.

    Director Berg and the normally perceptive screenwriter Nicole Holofcener share equal credit for this slack, meandering, and often cheap mess. Banks and Fanning do what they can with their ill-defined characters. Lane is practically in Mommie Dearest territory, providing a welcome dose of camp. Macdonald is extremely strong as Alice, whose angry resentment at how life has treated her warps her self-love.

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  • “Do you ever wonder what would have happened if maybe you had found the baby sooner? Maybe you could have saved her. Maybe if you had walked just a little bit faster, she would still be alive. Did you ever think about that?”

    “Every Secret Thing” is a meager attempt to create a thriller full of suspense. The inspiration came from a book written by Laura Lippman. Usually a story about missing children makes you feel uncomfortable and tells about the most terrible thing that can happen to you as a parent. However, I would recommend to watch “Prisoners” starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman. In terms of suspense and showing the desperation of the frightened parents, this film transcends effortlessly this shallow attempt. The two teenagers Alice (Danielle Macdonald) and Ronnie (Dakota Fanning) aren’t really creepy or frighteningly. On the contrary. You feel sorry for these two misfits who, by circumstances, made a wrong decision when they were young. Even though it turns out that one of them has a morbid, gloomy mind.

    At the age of 11, the two young girls decide to take a baby, sitting in an abandoned stroller on a porch, with them (and she’s also a granddaughter of the first black judge in the community), after they attended a disastrous birthday party. The two are not exactly popular with kids of the same age. Alice is a chubby girl and Ronnie is an introverted child who also happens to have a sharp tongue. At first it was just a harmless game for those two teenagers. But later on they started to realize they couldn’t cope with it and there was no turning back. The total lack of necessary care was fatal for the baby. The two were brought to justice and convicted for kidnapping and murdering a child. You don’t need to be a brilliant mind to know who they’ll suspect again when another baby disappears in the same community.

    I thought this movie failed in several areas. This film is mostly supported by women (several female actors, a female director, a female script writer and writer). This is noticeable since the result is quite soft. Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks), a female detective who’s like a sort of adult version of Nancy Drew, is motivated enough to solve this mystery. She discovered in a haphazard way the corpse of the first victim and was subsequently promoted. And she’s determined to find this baby again. Although I had a feeling as if there was no rush. She looked rather stoical. You can say that Alice’s mother does some groundbreaking work as an art teacher, but she fails completely as a parent. Alice was in a certain way kind of creepy. And yet that split personality isn’t displayed explicitly. Her sophisticated and manipulative traits were acted outstanding. However, the acting wasn’t that convincing at the denouement. In other words, the whole movie lacked some true tension.

    The only one who could captivate me with her acting, was Fanning (The last time I saw her acting was in “War of the Worlds” as a very young girl). A superb personage with a complicated character. An introverted girl who’s, despite her depressive and alternative appearance, still extremely attractive. For me she was also the only credible character.

    Even the strange twists at the end can’t avoid this melodramatic thriller ending up at the same level as most average TV movies. The mysterious beginning, the shocking subject and the sometimes superb acting eventually couldn’t prevent it to become a clichéd thriller with no real surprises. And the final scene is the most clichéd ending ever made.

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