Every Secret Thing's Quiet Physical Release

Every Secret Thing has finally arrived on DVD. After having one of those experimental deals where it was available for streaming at the same time it played in theaters, Amy Berg's film adaptation of the award winning novel by Laura Lippman has now hit the home video market via Anchor Bay's brand new DVD. And blu-ray, of course, right? Nope, just DVD. Hmm. Well alright, let's put a pin in that and focus on what we've actually got here.
This film appeared on my radar early, when one of my favorite filmmakers - Nicole Holofcener (Lovely and Amazing, Enough Said) - mentioned in an interview that one of her upcoming projects was going to be something different, an adaptation of this dark crime novel. First time producer but long time, Oscar winning actress Frances McDormand had acquired the rights, and wanted Holofcener after Nicole had directed her in Friends With Money. Holofcener didn't wind up directing the film - that went to documentary filmmaker Amy Berg, who'd made a film I was very impressed with: Deliver Us From Evil, and one I was disappointed by: West Of Memphis. She's done a couple other documentary films, too, but they all seem to be in various states of unavailability. So, anyway, that was a pretty interesting choice, Holofcener still had full screenplay credit, and I was interested in what McDormand would choose to produce, so I've been eagerly awaiting this one.
And I'm not at all disappointed. It's technically a mystery, and it will genuinely have you guessing right up until the last minute as surprising but very fitting things are revealed. But it's more of a quiet drama that just happens to circle around a few characters who were involved in a crime. We find our two leads, Dakota Fanning and Danielle Macdonald, who's particularly good, as two young women who've just returned home after being released from juvenile for a crime they committed against a baby when they were young children. Yeah, this film's pretty heavy. Anyway, their new lives seem to be dysfunctional enough - and they've grown completely distant from each other - before it turns out a very similar crime has just happened again, and naturally they're the two biggest suspects. Diane Lane hits it out of the park as Macdonald's mother, and rapper Common, formerly Common Sense, is surprisingly effective, too, as the baby's father. Some impressive child actors, too. Only Elizabeth Banks, as one of the two police detectives on the case, feels awkward and miscast. She actually gives a pretty respectable performance, but she just doesn't fit into the otherwise very natural, real environment, but rather like a very television CSI/ NCIS/ SVU idea of a cop. Everything else, however, is natural, touching, smartly written and completely pulls you in.
So, I was pretty surprised to see this not get the standard DVD and blu-ray double release. When I first saw it was DVD only in the US, my first thought was to hit up the foreign Amazon sites and see what was coming from Artificial Eye or Studio Canal or anybody, but... nothing. I guess it has to do with the early streaming release, DVD labels figure it devalued the film's home video rights, which I can see. A lot of people might've just bought it on ITunes rather than waiting for a DVD or blu that hadn't even been announced as coming yet. And Anchor Bay's sole DVD is pretty featureless and selling for only $7.88, brand new, on Amazon. The whole thing's just weird.
Well, weird and disappointing. The slightly letterboxed 1.85:1 (more like 1.83, really) transfer is fine, of course. As a brand new film, I'm sure the filmmakers just handed AB a finished digital transfer ready to be slapped onto a disc. But not having a blu-ray option is a real bummer, especially considering its already been available online in HD all this time. Like I wrote about That Guy Dick Miller, casual viewers who just catch this streaming on Netflix or where ever get to see it in full quality, but serious fans for pay for the collector's edition have to watch this all compressed? Boo. At least this DVD's surprisingly gentle price point eases that pain, but I still hold out hope that maybe a more serious label will recognize this film's potential and give it a special blu-ray edition down the road, here or abroad.
That said, this isn't completely bare bones. It comes in a nice slip cover and even has an insert, which is admittedly just advertising the book, but at least it hides the cut out of the "eco friendly" case with relevant artwork. But beyond that and a couple "bonus" trailers that autoplay on start, there's actually one very compelling extra. A seven+ minute collection of deleted scenes. These are actually pretty great, two or three in particular really add a dark but resonating shade to the lead character, and it's a real shame they were cut from the film. For pacing? The film actually flows very breezily and could definitely have stood to take on a couple extra minute of footage as good as this. I won't give the details away, though I suspect fans of the novel are already familiar with them and were missing them on screen... fans of this film should definitely seek these scenes out.
That's it, though. Not even the film's actual trailer. The "Deleted Scenes" option looks very lonely and isolated sitting alone in a vast emptiness of negative space of the "Special Features" sub-menu. I suspect whoever designed the menus anticipated a lot more things going into that space when he submitted it to his employers. Yeah. It's alright, guy, we all did.
So in the end, it's your call whether you'd rather pay for an HD download or an SD DVD. Obviously, it's disappointing that a proper blu isn't there when it should be. The deleted scenes and the very low price make me recommend the DVD, though, even if it's in addition to - rather than instead of - a digital download. Or just wait and hope a foreign country comes out with a blu, but there's no hint of anything yet, and I've been looking. At least for under $8, it wouldn't be a very painful double-dip.  ¯\(°_o)/¯

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