This film is just called Marrowbone in the US and while the extended European title sounds more intriguing it does give the game away a little. On the surface of it the secret in question is that of the plot set up; that the mother of a family has died and this must be kept from others until the eldest son turns 21 else the children be separated, or worse sent back to their abusive father. You know there is more to it than this though, especially when everyone starts behaving in slightly mysterious ways, covering up all of the mirrors and speaking of some phantom upstairs. Add to this the slightly clumsy time jump about a third of the way in and it is really prompting the audience to frantically start second guessing what the big truth to be revealed is. What happened in those missing months? Who was that guy at the edge of the woods? What really is the secret of Marrowbone?
The best movie twists come out of nowhere. Those people who saw The Sixth Sense early enough to avoid the chatter had no idea that there was anything off about Bruce Willis’ character so when the truth came it knocked them sideways. Similarly the big reveals of who those two guys really were in The Usual Suspects and Fight Club respectively left people reeling because they just comfortably assumed they were who they appeared to be. The Secret of Marrowbone tells you it’s got a secret straight out though and screams at you to work out what it is. Even if you don’t guess it the OMG moment is substantially lessoned when it comes. Also the film, with its spooky period house setting feels quite reminiscent of other brilliant movies like The Others and The Orphanage (the latter of which writer/director Sergio G. Sánchez also authored) and if you’ve seen them then the reveal will be even less of a revelation.
The Secret of Marrowbone is atmospheric and effectively directed and performed but I wish it had held its cards much closer to its chest. In fact to clumsily extend that analogy I wish it had just suddenly pulled out the ace it had up its sleeve rather than asking me over and over if I wanted to see a magic trick.
Frankly, reading this won’t have helped either. Sorry about that but as I say, they started it.
Is this one for the kids?
No, when the reveal comes, and I have to say that despite everything it’s a doozy, it has some disturbing connotations. This is not a family film and that’s no secret.
The Ripley Factor:
The female lead of this film is Anya Taylor-Joy although it is George MacKay’s show really.
Since she came on the scene three years ago in The Witch, Anya Taylor-Joy has proven herself to be a compelling screen presence. In Morgan, Split and Thoroughbreds, she has played a series of dark but strong female characters and she is clearly interested in selecting roles that feature both of these things. She has typical fortitude here but actually this may be a bit of a step backwards in that it is a more generic ‘love interest’ role. She drives the plot forward and she is a smart and brave woman but the part seems out of place with her other work.