Sarah Polley is one of the best young actresses working in cinema
today, and if you doubt that statement you must see her brilliant,
mesmerizing, intense performance in
THE SECRET LIFE OF WORDS.
Writer-director Isabel Coixet, who previously collaborated with the
performer on
MY LIFE WITHOUT ME, has provided Polley with a part
designed to showcase her gifts. In this film, she is cast as Hana,
a hearing-impaired, introverted woman -- very much a creature of
habit -- who is forced to take a holiday by the union official at her
factory job. Hana has worked three years without missing a single
day and the other employees were getting suspicious. So at the
urging of her manager, she heads for Northern Ireland.

 Not long after arriving at the destination, she overhears a
man (Eddie Marsan) speaking on the phone about a desperate need
for a nurse. Almost immediately she presents herself and a deal is
struck. She's to care for Josef (Tim Robbins), a man injured in a fire
on an oil rig. His body is covered in burns and he also is temporarily
blind. Once on the rig, Hana discovers that she enjoys the solitude
as much as most of the skeleton crew who remain, including a
personable chef (Javier Cámara), the captain (Sverre Anker Ousdal),
and an idealistic oceanographer (Daniel Mays).

 For her part, Hana gets to spend most of her time with Josef.
Initially, she is wary and avoids giving him any information about
herself or she deliberately misleads him. He calls her "Cora" after
a character in a story. Gradually, the pair come to a sort of meeting
of the minds and, in a devastating scene Hana reveals her secret
and recounts moments from her life. There are few words to describe
the moment as Polley delivers this tale; she is so incredibly moving
and touching in the scene.

 Robbins does well enough with his character but he is hamstrung
by the convention of having to stay prone in bed without moving too
much. He matches Polley's intensity but it is after the character's
recovery that he finally comes into his own. He shares a couple of
scenes with the wondrous Julie Christie who etches a memorable
character out of very little.

 Coixet's screenplay may be a little slow in spots and some
of the supporting characters are not very well drawn, but the spotlight
is on the two leads, and both Robbins and Polley come through.
There's some twee voiceover that mars the film's beginning and
ending, but that too can be overlooked. Flaws and all,
THE SECRET LIFE
OF WORDS
is top notch.


         Rating:                B
         MPAA Rating:       NONE
         Running time:      115 mins.



                 Viewed at Magno Review Two
The Secret Life of Words
(La vida secreta de las palabras)
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.