3 out of 5 stars
Short Take: The phrase comes from the film industry that means a short bit of recording or “something that only takes a short time."
RR's Short Take review: A short review of a film with potential discussion points
Summary: Based on Sebastian Barry’s award-winning novel of the same title, it begins in the Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital where Roseanne McNulty (Vanessa Redgrave) has resided for close to 50 years. Dr William Grene (Eric Bana) has been brought in to determine if the elderly patient can be released because the hospital is closing and the reassignment of all patients is essential. Rose refuses to leave, because of her belief that her son will come to find her and the hospital is the only place that he could potentially discover her whereabouts. Dr Grene takes a few days to evaluate her story and determine her fate.
As the dismantling of the hospital occurs around them, the doctor hears the tale of Rose (played wonderfully by Rooney Mara) as a young woman who is moved to a small village in the country from Belfast during World War II. As a beautiful young woman, she gets the attention of a multitude of young men, including the local grocer Michael McNulty (Jack Reynor) and Father Steven Gaunt (Theo James), the parish priest. Living in a small community where everyone knows one another's business, rumours fly about her and the potential relationships that she may have with these men. As Micheal heads off to war as a pilot with the RAF, vicious gossip is spread about Rose which leads to her placement at the mental institution. Grene must evaluate the truth of her decades-long story of woe and determine what to do with this elderly woman who claims her institutionalisation should never have occurred in the first place.
Short-take: With the novel’s strong Irish roots, director Jim Sheridan was a natural fit to tell the Job-like tale of lost love and hope that spans multiple decades. The man who delivered such cherished films as My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father, manages to capture the heart of the small island during the time of war. With a brilliant cast, the beauty of the quaint village and Sebastian Barry’s beautiful love triangle, this should be the next great cinematic love story, but something must have gone wrong in the editing process.
Coupling Mara and Redgraves’ devastatingly riveting performances with the insatiable desire to know the truth makes for exceptional drama and tension. Then to play out this sorted tale against the stark contrasts of the asylum and the beautiful village was a masters stroke of visual storytelling. The weaknesses of the film come down to challenges with the chronology and discombobulating moves between the past and the present. With a few subtle changes to the script, the plot holes could have been filled to explain some of the sudden jumps in the history and cultural elements between Ireland and England.
The Secret Scripture is a fascinating tale of love, anguish and belief. With Rose’s Bible playing a central role in the retelling of the history provides a significant nuance that makes this a film worth discovering. It is not one of Sheridan’s best movies, but this story will make for fascinating conversations after watching it with someone you love.
REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
1. How should we respond to mental health? (Romans 12:1, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 1 Timothy 4:8)
2. What does the Bible say about seeking the truth? (John 7:14-18, John 8:32, 2 Timothy 2:15 )
3. How can someone have hope that spans decades? (Deuteronomy 31:6, Isaiah 40:31, Romans 12:12)