Sunday 19 June 2016

The Secret

James Nesbitt is a great actor, and he’s certainly one of my favourite British ones. I’ll often wtch a series solely because he’s in it, as I know it’ll be a good one. ‘The Secret’ was yet another series starring Nesbitt that didn’t fail to deliver.

A dramatization on a shocking true story, ‘The Secret’ portrays Colin Howell (James Nesbitt) and Hazel Buchanan (Genevieve O’Reilly), two inhabitants of the small Irish village of Coleraine, who fall in love and end up having affair. Once the affair is found out and quickly put to a stop by the church, the pair realise that they can’t go on without each other. Due to certain aspects of their religion and their living situation they feel that there is no option but to kill their spouses and make it look like suicide.

It’s a very chilling story (particularly because it’s true), and the way it’s been portrayed is excellent. Each episode, although intrinsically linked, seems to have a slightly different focus, and so it’s refreshing to watch each one. The story spans over 21 years, and so there’s a lot to fit in – at no point does it feel like it’s moving too quickly. Instead, each scene is delicate and plays out in its own time, fully immersing the viewer in every tiny detail.

It’s also very interesting having the protagonist as an actual antagonist – so many different feelings are evoked than in your standard crime drama. I found myself getting very emotionally involved with both Colin and Hazel – their stories are gripping, and their actions are intriguing. It’s easy to make lots of guesses as to why they’re behaving the way they are and, although this is loosely explored in the sense of religion and power, it’s mostly left in the open, which I surprisingly effective. There are no mental health confirmations and the word ‘psychopath’ isn’t used once, which leaves you pondering over the reasons and the explanations for that much longer. Put simply, this story is unlikely to fully leave your head.

 A lot of focus was put on Colin, and I found myself feeling increasingly uneasy when watching him on the screen – despite so much interaction with him it was very hard to predict what he was thinking. I wish a little bit more focus had been put on Hazel – although she’s obviously quite central, it would have been nice to explore her psyche a bit more in-depth. However, the acting from both of them was very powerful, with O’Reilly particularly shining during the fourth and final episode.

The sinister content in this gritty Irish drama is further enhanced by the way it’s delivered – there’s a lot of very intense, close-up shots and drawn out, slow scenes that almost pull you into the story. It’s typical British filming at its best. The music is beautifully thought out and complements each scene in its own way. It all adds to the intensity of the experience, with it driving your emotions in a certain way. Interestingly there seemed to be a lot of division between viewers and their emotions – I too found myself internally conflicted, which was made even more apparent when I remembered that most of the content actually happened.

True crime dramas have to be well thought-out, but ‘The Secret’ really excelled at the way information was pieced together. It was a fascinating watch which just got better with each episode, and showed just how warped our minds can become when external influences take hold.

I'll give The Secret a 5/5.


Hannah Read

The Secret at CeX

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