The Secret Life of Words

The Secret Life of Words

2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5

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Freakitude intrigues director Isabel Coixet. This is why Hanna (Sarah Polley), a mysterious factory worker with a hearing aid and an Eastern European accent, eats chicken nuggets, white rice, and a halved apple for lunch and dinner, ostensibly everyday. It’s why a goose supervises Martin (Daniel Mays), an oceanographer on an oil rig off the coast of Northern Ireland, as he shoots some hoops, and a chef played by Javier Cámara cooks gourmet meals for the rig’s workers, perhaps to disguise the boredom of having been set adrift on a lonely ocean for many months. It’s also why Antony and the Johnsons blares during a transformative sequence in this film about the secret Hanna’s obsessive-compulsive behavior disguises and how it’s uprooted when she takes a job aboard the rig tending to the burns and broken bones of the kind Josef (Tim Robbins). This is a conventional story where a building in the sea and its existential connection to oil and water becomes a metaphor for the relationship between Hanna and Josef, two people who seem to exist for no other reason than to meet each other at an emotional half-marker and take whacks at each other’s bullshit meters. Coixet, an adult-contemporary visualist whose films are almost always saved by the great performances she coaxes out of her actors, sees in Hanna a creature who insists on working all the time so she won’t have time to think about her personal life, and though it’s unclear why Hanna would take a job at the rig given the nature of her torturous past, Polley, the greatest actress of her generation, makes credible her character’s self-imposed isolation. Both she and Robbins intelligently ponder their actions, from a subtly combative exchange during which the perpetually silent Hanna holds the temporary blind Josef’s dick in her hands as he pisses into a bed pan (he tries to suss information out of her; she refuses to give in) to a final confrontation where their happiness hinges on Josef taking Hanna’s florid supplications and turning them against her, slaying her unhappiness forever. Their entreaties sound like clichés, but Polley and Robbins’s passion makes them stink of roses.

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DVD
Distributor
Strand Releasing
Runtime
87 min
Rating
NR
Year
2005
Director
Isabel Coixet
Screenwriter
Isabel Coixet
Cast
Sarah Polley, Tim Robbins, Javier Cámara, Daniel Mays, Eddie Marsan, Steven Mackintosh, Leonor Watling, Julie Christie