Direct by: #YewWengHo
Based on real events and the book by Gordon Lewis, Secret Child opens the story of a single mother and her son who have taken refuge in a sanctuary for unmarried women.
Being the official selection at the New Renaissance Film Festival, London, 2018, the film is a brilliant opening into the troubled life of single mother Cathleen. While the film doesn’t tell us the whole story, the actors are compelling enough to make the audience appeal for more; we are left guessing and trying to form our own version of events.
Austin Taylor is wholly believable and delightful as Gordon (who hates to be called Francis), a feisty young boy who knows how to stand up for himself but doesn’t seem to know how to stay out of trouble. He seems to have an awareness that his mother has a past but doesn’t ask too many questions.
His mother Cathleen, trying to do her best for a better life, finds herself strolling down memory lane opening letters and doors that, maybe, should have remained closed. Fiona Glascott is captivating as Cathleen, especially during afternoon tea where viewers must decide whether her looks of terror are elicited by disturbing memories or Gordon’s table manners.
The penny might drop for some viewers when Bill (Aaron McCusker), Cathleen’s charming love interest, orders a beer for afternoon tea and Cathleen questions his beverage choice; but then again what is so strange about being nervous around someone you’ve avoided for roughly the same number of years as the age of your son?
Unless you’ve read the book, the film doesn’t give away any answers.
The running theme undeniably concerns the stigma and hardship of not only being a single mother but one who has had a child out of wedlock in 1950s Ireland. From the cause of Gordon’s fight at the start, working day and night shifts and trying to get Gordon to like Bill, we’re forced to try and understand Cathleen’s point of view and her outlook on life; for those reasons only, it might seem like an easy choice to return to the past, but returning to the past may cost her the future.
The closing score gives off a vibe that there is a happy ending, so we’re led to believe, but even without having read the book, the audience will discern that there is a more sinister tone to this story than its lovely introduction.