The Secret (Si J’etais Toi) (2007)
This film was recommended to me by a friend and sounded so damn intriguing that I just had to take a look.
OK, first up, ignore the poster. I honestly couldn’t find a good one. This version was the best from what I had to choose from since one made this look like a horror movie and another like The Secretary remake. And this film is neither.
Si J’etais Toi (If I Were You, for those who don’t speak the language of love) is a film about unbelievable circumstances and questionable miracles. Ben (David Duchovny) and Hannah (Lili Taylor) are high school sweethearts, happily married for 17 years now with a daughter, Samantha (Olivia Thirlby). Sam is a pretty typical 16-year-old; she rebels against her parents, she’s angry at her mother for being so controlling and she would rather spend her time with her friends than with her family. On the weekend that Sam and Hannah go away, they end up in a car accident and in a comatose state at the hospital. When Hannah wakes up and sees that Sam hasn’t, she panics, screaming her name and willing Sam to live until she goes catatonic. The doctors lose Hannah, but they recover Sam. When Ben gets her home, however, Sam is convinced that she is Hannah trapped in her daughter’s body. Eventually convincing Ben that she’s telling the truth, Hannah decides to live Sam’s life in her body until her daughter comes back to live for herself.
Right… I rewrote that paragraph a few times and it still doesn’t quite flow. It’s very difficult to describe this movie though, and if you’ve seen it I’m sure you’d agree with me.
The film is beautifully acted. And I’m surprised that Olivia Thirlby didn’t get some sort of award for this, since she pretty much plays two characters in the film. Both of whom have a relationship with Ben. And both of whom are so different! The film could be described as a coming-of-age film, as once Hannah decides to live as her daughter, she begins to discover exactly who her daughter is. She finds out that Sam has a boyfriend (or two… or more…) that she does drugs with her friends, that she has a tattoo of a boy’s name on her bum… that not only is she an honor student but she’s thinking about going to an Ivy League school but is too scared to tell her parents about it, that she loves her mother a lot more than she lets on…
At the same time as Hannah is discovering these things about Sam, Ben is losing both his daughter and his wife to this unbelievable circumstance. Although Hannah is there in spirit, she is in the body of their daughter, and Ben can’t love her or be with her as he used to. And it drives both him and Hannah mad, since they both understand this and can’t do a thing about it. Every so often, Sam shows through, but it’s only for seconds at a time before she’s Hannah again, desperately trying to figure out where her daughter is, and knowing full well at the same time that as soon as she finds her, she herself will be gone forever.
I can’t say it was a happy ending, nor can I say it was a sad one. It ended like it was meant to and it didn’t rush. Also, this film wasn’t overdone. It was incredibly emotional and in parts incredibly difficult to watch, because both Hannah and Ben are struggling to come to terms with so many things at once and if a situation like this happened in real life it WOULDN’T be dealt with calmly and collectedly. People would fight, they would get angry, they would get upset. And this film has that.
I would recommend this film to anyone who liked What Dreams May Come. Because even though that film is infinitely better, this one has similar aspects. It’s a drama, a romance and really makes you think about life and what can happen after that. I give this a 6/10 and would watch it again, and do definitely recommend it.