The Secrets We Keep

The Secrets We Keep

2020, R, 97 min. Directed by Yuval Adler. Starring Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, Chris Messina, Amy Seimetz.

REVIEWED By Matthew Monagle, Fri., Sept. 18, 2020

With decades of films about World War II under our belt, one might assume there are no new stories to tell. Then again, America has never been particularly good about writing its history. The Secrets We Keep, a new thriller from director Yuval Adler, explores what happens when we open our eyes.

After meeting in postwar Europe, Maja (Rapace) and Lewis (Messina) move back to the United States and settle into domestic bliss. Lewis parlays his medical career into a job as a local physician; meanwhile, Maja quickly becomes a well-liked member of the community. But Maja’s quiet life is ripped apart when she spies Thomas (Kinnaman), a Swedish factory worker who Maja believes might be the German officer who killed her sister. In a cold rage, Maya kidnaps Thomas and brings him home, desperate to hear him confirm the abuse she suffered at his hands.

Set aside the midcentury setting and The Secrets We Keep bears a striking resemblance to Big Bad Wolves, a 2013 thriller from Israeli filmmakers Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado. In both films, the survivors of a heinous crime take justice into their own hands, questioning and torturing a man who may not be who he seems. Adler, also an Israeli filmmaker, makes excellent use of 1950s America in his film, building suspense through a community that desperately wants to put the past behind them (and would rather look the other way than deal with instances of wartime trauma).

With a small cast and a handful of locations – the only other character of note is Rachel (Seimetz), Thomas’ unsuspecting wife – The Secrets We Keep blends the best of B-movie thrillers and black box theatre. Maja is unrepentant in her pursuit of justice. Lewis, a faithful husband who served far away from the war’s violence, is smart enough to know when to step back. In its quieter moments, The Secrets We Keep is a thoughtful exploration of the things we choose to tell our loved ones, and Rapace and Messina ground the escalating violence in a relationship built on trust.

And while the film’s outcome is rarely in question – the more torture Thomas endures, the more the narrative path narrows – the ending offers a satisfying reset of each pair of relationships. Like their community, Maja, Lewis, Thomas, and Rachel have each wallpapered over the worst of the war. No matter who walks out of Maja’s basement alive, the trauma that surfaced will take years to unpack.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Noomi Rapace Films
You Won’t Be Alone
Macedonian witch drama straddles dreamy and pretentious

Jenny Nulf, April 1, 2022

Icelandic oddity finds unexpected heart in a strange fable of parenthood

Trace Sauveur, Oct. 8, 2021

More by Matthew Monagle
The Boogeyman
Can Hollywood just knock it off with the trauma horror?

June 2, 2023

Nonprofit We Luv Video Establishes New Hub on North Loop
Nonprofit We Luv Video Establishes New Hub on North Loop
In the mood for Luv

May 5, 2023


The Secrets We Keep, Yuval Adler, Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, Chris Messina, Amy Seimetz

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle