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Review: Noomi Rapace carries psychological thriller 'The Secrets We Keep'

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Noomi Rapace (L) stars as Maja and Joel Kinnaman (R) stars as Thomas in Yuval Adler’s THE SECRETS WE KEEP, a Bleecker Street release (Photo: Bleecker Street)

The Secrets We Keep
3.5 out of 5 Stars
Director
: Yuval Adler
Writer: Yuval Adler, Ryan Covington
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, Chris Messina
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Rated: R for strong violence, rape, some nudity, language and brief sexuality

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — Synopsis: Having survived the horrors of World War II, Maja married an American doctor, immigrated stateside and started a family in the suburbs. More than a decade later, the trauma of her past resurfaces when a man she believes to be one of the soldiers who tortured her moves into the neighborhood.

Review: It’s a bright, nostalgia-worthy day in suburbia. Maja (Noomi Rapace) is playing in the park with her young son. A man (Joel Kinnaman) whistles at his dog.

Memory is a strange thing. Events forgotten surface because of a smell, a place or sound. For years Maja has repressed the memories of the night that she and her sister were raped left to die by German soldiers.

What are the odds that one of those soldiers would end up in the same town on the other side of the world? Maja is convinced that he has.

There is an immediate tension that sets in. It hangs in my stomach for the next 80 minutes. I have to give co-writer/director Yuval Adler credit for that.

Maja isn’t looking for revenge as much as she is searching for resolution, a sense of peace that she will never find. He memories from the horrible night are fragmented. Did she run? Did she leave her sister to die? Only someone who was there could answer her questions.

So, Maja waits outside the factory where the man works. When he walks by, she asks for his help to fix her car, knocks him out and puts him in the trunk. Maja has told her husband (Chris Messina) about what happened to her during the war. With a man in her trunk, she’ll have to reveal the truth behind her trauma.

“The Secrets We Keep” feels a little thin. It rushes to get the man in the trunk and then doesn’t quite know what to do with him. He insists that he wasn’t anywhere near the war. What else can he do? How often do we need to see him deny it?

Fortunately, writers Adler and Ryan Covington aren't completely obsessed with brutality and violence and turn the focus on Maja’s relationship with her husband, the toll that her undisclosed past has taken on their marriage. We also see Maja reaching out to the man’s wife (Amy Seimetz). It’s a friendship that is filled with secrets and manipulation and untapped potential. It’s interesting, but it seems to just muddy the water, rather than helping define Maja.

Ultimately, “The Secrets We Keep” works because Rapace sells it. The rest of the cast is good, but their characters are underwritten. The story is a little too simplistic. There's space for a secondary character to bring an emotional complexity, to steal a bit of the focus. It could have been the man, his wife or Maja's husband.