Secret Places (1984)

“This is Laura… She’s come from abroad.”

Synopsis:
During World War Two, a teen (Tara MacGowran) befriends the daughter (Marie-Theres Relin) of a German refugee (Klaus Barner) and French actress (Claudine Auger).

Genres:

Review:
Based on a novel by Janice Elliott, this WWII-era coming-of-age film features fine, authentic performances by Tara MacGowran and Marie-Theres Relin (Maria Schell’s daughter) in the lead roles, but fails to sufficiently develop any of its intriguing narrative strands. Relin’s dilemma — how will she cope with being a German teenager in England during the thick of war? — is a compelling one, but is quickly (and inexplicably) dropped as she and MacGowran become friends. Indeed, the entire film essentially consists of teasers: while there are hints of a possible lesbian attraction between the two girls, this is never explored; Jenny Agutter makes a brief appearance as a sympathetic teacher, but her role is minimal at best, and makes no real difference to the storyline; Cassie Stuart (looking like Aileen Quinn in Annie with her bouncy blonde afro) is appropriately giddy as a boy-crazy classmate, but her eventual dilemma (you guessed it) is both cliched and simply yet another distraction. Ultimately, Secret Places is too narratively scattered to recommend for anyone other than diehard coming-of-age fans.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Marie-Theres Relin as Laura
    Secret Places Relin
  • Tara MacGowran as Patience
    Secret Places MacGowran
  • Jenny Agutter in a bit role as one of the girls’ teachers
    Secret Places Agutter

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a look simply for the performances. Listed as a Sleeper in the back of Peary’s book.

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