Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Secrets and Lies Adoption Movie Review

Middle-aged Cynthia struggles amidst family drama when out of the blue she receives a call about a baby she placed for adoption decades ago. Although she is initially nervous, Cynthia eventually agrees to meet the caller, her birthdaughter, Hortense. Cynthia continues to meet Hortense in secret, and she takes joy in seeing that Hortense is succeeding in life, even though Cynthia herself struggles to make ends meet. Cynthia struggles within herself, wanting her family to know about her newly-found daughter, but also wanting to keep her secret hidden.

The Adoption Connection


When she was 15 years old, Cynthia slept with a vacationing American medical student; when she woke up, he was gone. Cynthia decided to place her child for adoption. When Hortense and Cynthia meet, Cynthia has a hard time believing that Hortense could be her daughter, because Cynthia is Caucasian and Hortense is Black. Cynthia initially refuses to tell Hortense who her father is, but ultimately tells her. Cynthia’s daughter Roxanne initially seems to reject Hortense, but later says that she is happy to have her as a half-sister. Cynthia’s brother commends Hortense for seeking out her history. One character struggles with infertility. Hortense did not seek out her birth family until after her adoptive parents had passed away.

Strong Points

This film captures the truth that when we face our pain, we can find healing.

Cynthia overcomes her fear to meet Hortense, and eventually introduces her to her family. The family is understandably shocked, but welcome Hortense. Hortense acts bravely in tracking down her birthfamily.

This is a well-acted, thoughtful British film from 1996; it seems quite forward-thinking in its treatment of openness in adoption.


One character suffers from infertility; another character, not knowing this, criticizes her for not providing children for her husband. Even this secret comes to light, which allows the family to respond with kindness and concern.


Secrets and Lies is a film that you might have missed, but it’s very much worth seeing for adoptive parents, adult adoptees, and people considering becoming adoptive parents. It’s a powerful picture of the pain that comes from secrecy, and the healing that can be found when we let trustworthy people know us. Strongly recommended for adults.

Questions for Discussion

Which secrets could have caused the most pain?

Which characters do you think are feeling the most relief by the end of the movie?

Why do you think Hortense chose to seek out her birthmother? Why do you think she waited until after her adoptive parents had passed away?

Which characters do you relate to?

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