Sharing the Secret (2000)
Food for Thought
I've watched a few movies which focus on teenagers with eating disorders and most of them have gone for big drama, sensational scenes designed to create an impact. Whilst "Sharing the Secret" is another movie which tackles a teenager with an eating disorder it doesn't try to be sensational in fact it tries to be very factual and that makes it stand apart from the norm. Now on one hand that is a good thing as it ends up educational for parents as well as any child going through a similar situation. But by trying to be less dramatic it does make it a bit of a slow burning movie which at times can feel like it is meandering as it fills in between the story of a child with an eating disorder with a parallel one.
To everyone Beth (Alison Lohman - Drag Me to Hell) seems a normal teenager, good at school, good at ballet and despite her parents being divorced seems happy around them both. But that is far from the truth as Beth secretly has an eating disorder; it is the one thing which she can control in her life as she tries to be everything that each parent wants. In fact she gets very good at hiding her disorder that is until she starts to pass out and others start to notice how she looks.
I have had two friends who both had eating disorders and watching "Sharing the Secret" brought back memories of how they behaved. But the thing it does right is not trying to cover all the things I witnessed as so many movies do and by doing so ending up feeling manufactured. Instead it feels like Beth is very much a character built around one real teenager and as such we see a handful of elements to do with her situation, from the binge eating away from others to the vomiting and techniques to cover up what is happening. It makes it real rather than forced and with the tone of the movie being quiet rather than sensationalist it also adds to the sense of reality.
Now this is good because it is a very real depiction of a teenager with an eating disorder and not only will it help parents who find themselves with a child with an eating disorder but also teenagers dealing with it as well. But I do have a problem with "Sharing the Secret" and that is by being very real it is a slow burning movie, a gradual look at the life of Beth. That in itself isn't bad but in order to pad this out we have a parallel storyline about her mother who as a therapist is dealing with a troubled child. I know there is a parallel to be drawn between these elements but the whole subplot surrounding the troubled girl in therapy ended up feeling like filler.
Despite that "Sharing the Secret" does feature good performances firstly from Mare Winningham who delivers a subtly touching performance as Beth's mother who finds herself in the unusual situation of having a daughter who needs help. But the stand out performance is from Alison Lohman who not only effectively delivers the mannerisms and emotions of a teenager with an eating disorder but also the look of a teenager with an eating disorder.
What this all boils down to is that "Sharing the Secret" is an effective drama about a teenager with an eating disorder, avoiding the usual melodramatic pitfalls of this kind of movie and going for realistic drama. But also by delivering a more realistic dramatization it is at times slow and sometimes feels like it is meandering, filling time with a subplot.
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