Review: 'Every Secret Thing': Murder, kids, psyches

Tom Long
The Detroit News

Elizabeth Banks is clearly a woman of many talents. Elsewhere this weekend she's directing and co-starring in the upbeat "Pitch Perfect 2." But, in far fewer theaters this week, she's also playing a police detective searching for a missing toddler in the decidedly downbeat "Every Secret Thing."

Banks plays Nancy Porter, a rookie cop elevated to detective seven years ago after finding the remains of a murdered baby. Back then, two 11-year-old-girls were charged with taking the biracial baby and eventually killing it. Now, seven years later, the girls have turned 18 and been released from juvenile hall.

As kids, Alice and Ronnie weren't really friends, they were just pushed into hanging out by Alice's mother (Diane Lane), who liked the willowy Ronnie better than her own pudgy child. When they return to the real world, Alice (an impressive Danielle Macdonald) has grown into an outright fat and lazy fantasist, while the shy Ronnie (Dakota Fanning) quietly works in a bagel shop.

They both suddenly become suspects when another biracial child goes missing. Porter ends up with the case and knows she probably only has a few days before the child turns up dead. When Alice declares she never even committed the first crime, much less the new one, and Ronnie takes off running, the obvious suspect seems to have surfaced.

But as Porter digs deeper, she uncovers disquieting truths about both incidents and the damaged psyches involved.

Written by Nicole Holofcener ("Enough Said"), based on the novel by Laura Lippman and directed by Amy Berg ("West of Memphis"), the film has enough twists and dark reveals to grab the viewer. But it's Macdonald's sad turn as Alice that eats away at your soul.

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'Every Secret Thing'

GRADE: B

Rated R for some language and disturbing images

Running time: 93 minutes