7.5/10
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55 user 67 critic

The Secret Life of Words (2005)

A hearing impaired factory worker gives up her first holiday in years and instead travels out to an oil rig, where she cares for a man suffering from severe burns.

Director:

Isabel Coixet

Writer:

Isabel Coixet

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25 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Sarah Polley ... Hanna
Tim Robbins ... Josef
Sverre Anker Ousdal ... Dimitri (as Sverre Ousdal)
Javier Cámara ... Simon
Danny Cunningham Danny Cunningham ... Scott
Dean Lennox Kelly ... Liam (as Dean Lenox Kelly)
Daniel Mays ... Martin
Emmanuel Idowu Emmanuel Idowu ... Abdul
Eddie Marsan ... Victor
Steven Mackintosh ... Doctor Sulitzer
Julie Christie ... Inge
Reg Wilson ... Factory Manager
Leonor Watling ... Josef's Friend's Wife
Daphne Brown Daphne Brown ... Old Lady on Bus
Muriel Hobson Muriel Hobson ... Old Lady on Bus
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Storyline

Hannah, who wears a hearing aid, is forced to go on holiday. On holiday she manages to find a job: caring for Josef, a burn victim on an oil rig who temporarily lost his sight, until he's stable enough to be transferred. There is almost no one on the rig, except a cook, an oceanographer and a few others out at sea. Hannah tends to Josef and he slowly breaks her shell of silence. Written by Yonatan Doron (jrd@netvision.net.il)

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Spain | Ireland

Language:

English | Danish

Release Date:

21 October 2005 (Spain) See more »

Also Known As:

The Secret Life of Words See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$5,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$5,309, 17 December 2006, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$20,023, 6 May 2007

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$5,612,659
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The contact lenses damaged Tim Robbins' eyes. An ophthalmologist has required on set for a few days to supervise because Robbins refused to take them off while shooting. See more »

Goofs

In order to fly out to the rig, Hanna would have had to do a three-day off-shore survival course. There seems to be no indication that she does this in the film. See more »

Quotes

Victor: He doesn't like to be with the others. He's a loner, too.
Hanna: There are many of us.
See more »

Connections

References Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964) See more »

Soundtracks

All the World Is Green
Written by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan
Performed by Tom Waits
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Silence as a Protection for Facing Past Horrors
13 May 2007 | by gradyharpSee all my reviews

It is always a joy to find a DVD in the videostore that is completely an unknown entity, only to discover upon viewing it that it is a little masterpiece of cinematic art. Such is the case with THE SECRET LIFE OF WORDS, and having seen the film now raises the question of how it went unnoticed in the theater release. Though touted on the cover as an 'Almodóvar film', in reality it's connection to the genius lies in the fact that both Pedro and his brother Agustín Almodóvar were executive producers: the film was written and directed by Spanish artist Isabel Coixet (Paris, je t'aime, Invisibles, My Life Without Me). It is a minimalist statement about the indomitable human spirit, a story that slowly unwinds to reveal some of the most terrifying aspects of trauma of war and guilt and shame ever written.

Hanna (Sarah Polley, in a phenomenal performance) is a deaf, silent reclusive young woman working as a line operator in a factory, so married to her meaningless job that her boss insists she take a vacation she deserves. Hanna does as she's told, and journeys to a seaside spot where she hears about a man on an oil rig in the middle of the ocean who is severely burned and needs a nurse. Hanna quietly takes the job, is flown by the doctor (Steven Mackintosh) to the isolated oil rig, populated with only a few men - cook Simon (Javier Cámara of 'Hable con ella', 'La Mala educación, 'Lucía y el sexo' etc), oceanographer and workers (Eddie Marsan, Daniel Mays, Dean Lennox Kelly, Danny Cunningham, Emmanuel Idowu) and a captain (Steven Mackintosh), and meets her patient Josef (Tim Robbins) who is temporarily blinded from burns to his corneas, and severely burned on his limbs.

Josef seeks to discover information from Hanna, but Hanna shares nothing about herself, spending her time dressing Josef's wounds, feeding him and tending to his needs. He slowly reveals his painful past to her (he was burned in an accident in which his best friend was burned to death, the friend whose wife had become Josef's lover!). Hanna is treated well by the few men on the isolated rig and learns to eat the exotic foods prepared by Simon, becoming friends with the crew, though at a distance, and gradually Hanna speaks with Josef about herself. In a painful confessional Hanna reveals that she is Bosnian and a survivor of the Balkan war, a hideous time when she and her close friend were captured, tortured and raped, leaving Hanna with physical as well as psychic scars and an enormous feeling of shame that her friend died and she survived. This knowledge bonds Hanna and Josef, but by this point it is time for Josef to be medevaced to a hospital onshore and the two part company. After some time has passed and Josef has recovered, he begins his search for Hanna and the journey and its finale serve as a touching end to the story.

The cast is uniformly brilliant, including a small role of Hanna's therapist played convincingly by Julie Christie. The metaphors the tale offers are many, but the most moving is an examination of how the human mind deals with survival and shame after trauma. Director Isabel Coixet draws such subtle performances from the entire cast in this very small film, proving she is one of the more important artists in film making today. Very Highly Recommended. Grady Harp


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