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Every Secret Thing DVD Review

Every Secret Thing (2015) movie poster Every Secret Thing

Theatrical Release: May 15, 2015 / Running Time: 92 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Amy Berg / Writers: Laura Lippman (book), Nicole Holofcener (screenplay)

Cast: Diane Lane (Helen Manning), Elizabeth Banks (Nancy Porter), Dakota Fanning (Ronnie Fuller), Danielle Macdonald (Alice Manning), Nate Parker (Kevin Jones), Common (Devlin Hatch), Sarah Sokolovic (Maveen Lyttle), Renιe Elise Goldsberry (Cynthia Barnes), Colin Donnell (Paul Porter), Tonye Patano (Clarice), Brynne Norquist (Young Alice Manning), Eva Grace Kellner (Young Ronnie Fuller)

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Every Secret Thing is one of those mysteries that enjoy keeping you in the dark. It is consistently revealing things to you, often things you never realized you never knew. The movie opens with two young blonde girls attending a birthday party at a country club.
Neither is fond of the other or popular with their peers. Their social improprieties get them kicked out of the party early. It is this day which changes the lives of the two girls: curly-haired Alice Manning (Brynne Norquist) and straight-haired Ronnie (Eva Grace Kellner). We don't learn the full extent of the change until much later in the film; in fact, its full impact isn't clarified until the very end.

Now in the seeming present day, Alice (Danielle Macdonald) is obese and Ronnie (Dakota Fanning) is slim. The girls, now 18 years old, have not had contact since each served a 7-year sentence in juvenile detention over that day's shadowy episode involving a missing girl. Ronnie now works in a bagel shop. Alice, who likes to walk (with Big Gulp in hand), has reluctantly been applying to jobs at fast food places. Both girls are questioned after a 3-year-old biracial girl goes missing while her mother (Sarah Sokolovic) and the mother's boyfriend (Common) are shopping for a new couch at a furniture store. The similarities between this central mystery/probable crime that drives the plot and the one for which Alice and Ronnie were incarcerated eventually strike Detective Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks), who is still haunted by the crime scene she discovered from the incident seven years ago.

In "Every Secret Thing", Nancy Parker (Elizabeth Banks) leads the police investigation into an abduction that reminds her of an earlier one she worked.

As the hours since the biracial girl's disappearance pass, our suspicions shuffle. Ronnie acts in a way that suggests guilt. Alice has an alibi. How does Alice's mom (Diane Lane), an elementary school art teacher who seems closer to Ronnie than her own daughter, figure in the mix, if at all? Detective Porter and her partner (Nate Parker) investigate, as the movie slowly sheds light on the childhood incident and how it relates to the current kidnapping.

Every Secret Thing passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. That test -- which most films should easily clear, but many do not -- simply requires that a piece of fiction features at least two women who at least once talk about something other than a man. This film is full of female characters. It is based on a 2003 novel of the same name by a woman, detective novelist Laura Lippman. The book was adapted by a woman, filmmaker Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said, Friends with Money). And although Holofcener does not direct, as she ordinarily does, the director's chair is still filled by a woman, Oscar-nominated documentarian Amy Berg (2006's Deliver Us from Evil, 2012's West of Memphis), making her narrative feature debut. Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand is one of two producers.

Given that personnel, you might expect and fear that Every Secret Thing is some corny, toothless thriller designed explicitly for and by women. It is not. The genders of characters (only two principals of whom are male) seem like happenstance, not some deliberate, progressive anti-establishment act. This dark, atmospheric mystery could be the work of many fine, accomplished male filmmakers. Only it happens to be the work of women whose gender has historically been denied chief creative roles in this business. It may not be Gone Girl, but this involving tale did deserve better than being marginalized in twenty theaters for a single week in spring. The material is page-turning human interest stuff and the cast and crew have proven themselves many times over.

Suspicions are cast on plus-sized, teenaged ex-con Alice Manning (Danielle Macdonald) after an infant goes missing in her hometown.

Berg demonstrates she is more than qualified to film fiction. Holofcener shows she can adapt novels in addition to telling her own personal dramedic stories of class and privilege.
The standout actor is relative newcomer Danielle Macdonald, whose weight makes her unlikely to sink her teeth into another role this juicy anytime soon. No matter how unsettling Macdonald's performance may be, she need only look to Precious Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe and Hairspray's Nikki Blonsky as testament to how bleak career prospects are for an overweight young woman, even at a time when Melissa McCarthy is one of the most popular actresses in the world. Interestingly, it is the cast's only Oscar nominee -- Lane -- who proves to be its weakest link, with a characterization that is consistently changing and never remotely believable.

Released theatrically by Starz (for whom it quickly became their biggest "hit" to date), Every Secret Thing hits DVD, but not Blu-ray, this week from the company's home video arm Anchor Bay Entertainment. It is ripe for discovery not as some everyone's-talking-about, you-gotta-see Gone Girl-type drama but as a gripping, powerful story capable of surprising many.

Every Secret Thing DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Most Extras Subtitled
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $22.98
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Slipcover
Also available on Amazon Instant Video


Every Secret Thing opts for a dark look, keeping things low-lit, cloudy, and only partially focused throughout. The 1.85:1 picture is nothing special, but not concerning in any way. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack does a fine job of distributing dialogue, effects, and music.

Alice (Danielle Macdonald) walks right into a babysitting job in this deleted storyline. Dakota Fanning appears on the Every Secret Thing DVD's main menu.


The DVD includes just a single bonus feature: a reel of four deleted scenes (7:10).
The longest of these cuts finds Alice and her mother being asked to sign a petition to stop a neighbor from installing a 10-foot high fence around their property. Two others provide glimpses of Alice's horrifying babysitting practices, while the last (presented out of order) explains to us how she lucked into that job.

The disc opens with trailers for Little Accidents, Echoes, and Just Before I Go. None of those is accessible by menu and Every does not have its own trailer preserved.

The main menu loops clips in pockets behind police tape while end credits score plays.

A small insert promoting the Laura Lippman book on which the film is based joins the silver disc inside the slipcovered Eco-Box keepcase.

Diane Lane may be the cast's only Oscar nominee, but she is also its weakest link as inconsistent art teacher and possible accomplice Helen Manning.


Every Secret Thing requires patience as it slowly unravels the mysteries it presents in a deliberately vague fashion. The closing twists are things you can't guess because they are too specific to even speculate on in advance. With strong direction and mostly good acting, the movie compels and captivates enough to recommend a viewing. The basic DVD is short on extras, but the deleted scenes are worth a look.

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Written by Nicole Holofcener: Please Give

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Reviewed August 3, 2015.

Text copyright 2015 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2015 Starz Digital, Hyde Park International, Merced Media Partners, PalmStar Media Capital,
Likely Story, Hear/Say, Disarming Films, and Anchor Bay Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.