TIFF 2016 Review: “The Secret Scripture” (2016) ★★★


An old woman named Roseanne McNully (Vanessa Redgrave) keeps her secret diary in an extended stay at a mental hospital. After many years, the hospital is about to be closed but Rose has no desire to leave saying that she wait for her son to claim her. But how can one claim if that son was killed on the day he was born?

Based on Sebastian Barry’s novel, The Secret Scripture follows an aged Rose who re-tells her story in the diary she had written from the beginning of her journey until she ends up in the hospital. It begins with a young Rose (Rooney Mara) in 1942, who with a stone kills a new-born child. Why she does that we’re yet to find out. But when we are taken back to the beginning of the story, you find that her natural beauty had attracted many men, including the Father Gaunt (Theo James) whose jealousy towards Rose had crossed all possible borders.

As the story unfolds, young Rose meets Michael, a young pilot for whom she falls. When they finally tie the knot, things turn ugly when her husband becomes a wanted man. Father Gaunt also follows Rose everywhere possible to use an opportunity to discreetly see her, because of his unrequited love for her. Back in 1968, an aged Rose continues telling her story to Dr. William Greene, a young man that comes to re-evaluate her psychological condition. Rose hopes that, at least someone will believe her that she had not killed her son, even though the events occurring on the beach prove otherwise.

The Secret Scripture is a period drama about a woman who’s stuck in her painful memory who awaits her dearest one to take her home. Despite the predictable ending, Jim Sheridan’s film still delivers enough drama and intensity to keep you interested till the end. The performance delivered by the great Vanessa Redgrave and Rooney Mara are solid, which is important for the film with an average storyline.

In conclusion, The Secret Scripture does what it can with the given material. It certainly cannot be considered as an ambitious project with the aim to target wider audience, however, it’s still worthwhile seeing as it is never boring, and that I can certainly assure you of.

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