The Secret Life Of Words (2005)
Starring: Sarah Polley (Beowulf And Grendel, Go), Tim Robbins (The Hudsucker Proxy, The Shawshank Redemption)
Directed By: Isabel Coixet (My Life Without Me, Things I Never Told You)
Overview: A woman takes her first vacation in years, and ends up on an oil rig, helping to nurse a burn victim.
Acting: Sarah Polley, for me, has always been the kind of understated actress that appeared from time to time in random films. From horror like eXistenZ and the new Dawn Of The Dead, to mythological tales like Beowulf and Grendel, all the way to hip blockbusters (read: 'crappy mainstream') like Go. All this to say that she's a hit and miss kind of actress for me, unless she's working for Isabel Coixet. It's like they're made to work together. Don't even get me started on the genius that is Tim Robbins.
Cinematography: Any movie set on an oil rig is pretty cool, but overall the scenes are intentionally subdued. When the nurse and her patient tell one another stories in that small room, there's no cut to the events taking place to visually enhance anything, it's natural. The cinematography sticks to the true to life events as they happen with the occasional break-giving artistic focus on an object, or the character-defining moments like Hanna's apartment, or the factory where she works. Impressive from time to time, but this one's really about the writing.
Script: I walked in expecting this profound story about a man deep in his injury, spouting self-loathing and disfigurement, a life lost. I expected the nurse to be this completely caring devoted caregiver ignoring what little problems she may have in order to cater to this man's healing process. Talk about shattering the cliché. First off, the burns aren't that bad, and the patient's got a really great outlook. Secondly, the way this unfolds is so natural and human, you're surprised this isn't lifted straight from a novel.
Plot: This is a story of a woman who goes on vacation and decides to help out a burn victim out on an oil rig instead. Most of the time is spent with the charred blind guy trying to get to know her, and she's a hard nut to crack. They talk. They learn about one another, and the climax is just what the film needed to nail it on the map of important dramas. It's simple with enough peripheral stuff going on to keep the tale diverse and rich.
Mood: The My Life Without Me fans will recognize the contemplative moments that imitate the stillness of life in isolation, be it by choice or by geography. Coixet certainly knows how to keep us in this state no matter what's happening in the story. What I did find odd was how every piece of music chosen seemed like a distraction, out of place somehow, like it was more what Isabel wanted to hear in her movie rather than what was appropriate.
Overall Rating: 84% (Hopefully One That Won't be Well Kept)
Aftertaste: See I just know that this will be one of those movies that no one ends up seeing, reading about or ever hearing about. Coixet is a director who has yet to leave a deep mark on Hollywood, but clearly she's done her job of making a namesake in her native Spain. Much like Guillermo Arriaga, for now she'll have to remain content catering to critics and thinkers rather than socialites and explosion fans, poor woman.