New York Times - 12/15/2006
"[W]hen THE SECRET LIFE OF WORDS returns to Hanna and Josef and their struggle to connect and to heal, it glows with dignity."
Entertainment Weekly - 12/22/2006
"Sarah Polley delivers a halting, evocative 10-minute monologue....Polley is mesmerizing as she raises the movie's stakes..." -- Grade: B-
Box Office - 02/01/2007
"[Featuring] unconventional scenarios laced with gentle metaphors and earnest, heartbreaking performances."
THE SECRET LIFE OF WORDS, written and directed by Isabel Coixet, follows Hanna (Sarah Polley), a factory worker who lives alone in a barren apartment, wears a hearing-aid, and keeps to herself with a rigorous daily routine of identical meals, a fresh bar of soap every day, and needlepoint work at night. While on an extended holiday in Northern Ireland, she volunteers as a nurse, tending to a burn victim Josef (Tim Robbins) stationed on an oil rig. While Hanna coaxes him back to health, Josef, who has suffered temporary blindness, reaches out to her urgently, wanting to connect. As his brutish and passionate demeanor contrasts sharply with Hanna's solemn and quiet manner, Hanna initially refuses to reveal anything about herself, even her real name. But she soon she starts to recognize parallels between her own isolation and that of the others on the oil rig. She eventually grows to care for Josef and shares with him a painfully severe secret from her past that opens wounds, and doors, for the two strangers from different worlds to come together and help heal one another.
With the shaky-camera technique, absence of a film score, and the backdrop of a lone oil rig, writer and director Coixet (who also wrote and directed Polley in the 2003 critically-acclaimed MY LIFE WITHOUT ME), emphasizes the vulnerability and seclusion of the characters. Robbins and Polley turn in compelling performances; and a strong supporting cast that includes Javier Camara (TALK TO HER) and Eddie Marsan (THE ILLUSIONIST).