On his fifteenth birthday a family friend tells Francois (Quentin Dubuis) a secret that ties his family's past to the Holocaust. Until then, the secret had lain silent, known only to a few, including his mother Tania (Cecile De France), his father Maxime (Patrick Bruel) and lifelong family friend Louise (Julie Depardieu).
The set design, casting and costumes are outstanding in Un Secret. The script, while good, attempts to jump from 1985 back to the 30's, 50's and 60's to slowly unveil the secret while developing the main characters. Unfortunately, the 1985 sections of the film aren't as fulfilling or riveting and the viewer becomes keen to skip back to the past and get to the heart of the secret. It's a complicated story and, for the most part, compelling viewing.
As a boy, Francois feels inferior to his Aryan looking parents. He is short, dark-haired and not athletically competent like his father, a master athlete, nor like his mother who excels at diving and swimming. On his fifteenth birthday his neighbour and old family friend, Louise, tells him something that changes his perspective, not only about himself but also about his family.
Much like a soap opera there is intrigue, passion, honour, dishonour and guilt but most of all guilt. When the Nazi's collect the Jewish people who live in France and transport them to Poland, the French people look on in horror and do nothing. When Maxime lusts after Tania (his brother's wife) and eventually acts on that lust, Hannah (his wife) looks on in horror but does nothing. Until, eventually she does something so abhorrent it is beyond belief. The guilt of the characters is a metaphor for the greater guilt of the people of France.
Without giving away the secret, it is interesting to note that Maxime denies his faith and his refusal to acknowledge his faith leads to estrangement from his extended family. The Nazi's aren't the only villains in this film there are Jewish people who, while in denial, are less than honourable.
Regardless, there may be a few things not quite right with this film but they pale in comparison to the things, which work, and work solidly. It's a film that leaves the viewer with images and thoughts long after the credits roll. If you have an interest in understanding the effects of the Holocaust then you could do worse than waste an hour or two watching Un Secret.