Generally favorable reviews - based on 11 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 11
  2. Negative: 0 out of 11
  1. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    Carries an important and timely reminder about the fate of torture victims, so deftly wrapped within a touching and beautifully acted melodrama that the result is the furthest thing from a didactic message movie.
  2. Like Ceylan--like many a fine director--Coixet has made her film less as a drama than as the traversal of a state of mind, a mood.
  3. Given the physical limitations of their characters, Polley and Robbins give remarkably compelling performances, and though the resolution of their slowly evolving relationship is a bit too pat, it is one you won't soon forget.
  4. 75
    Yes, The Secret Life of Words owes much to Lars von Trier's 1999 "Breaking the Waves." But Coixet's riff stands on its own thanks to thoughtful performances by Polley and Robbins.
  5. Reviewed by: Jeremy Mathews
    A series of conversations that are sometimes clever and sometimes feel like screenwriting exercises about the details of life, but are always well acted.
  6. Reviewed by: Lael Loewenstein
    There may be no young actress today better at embodying a blend of wounded innocence and stoic pride than Sarah Polley. In The Secret Life of Words, she has a part worthy of her gifts.
  7. The exquisitely coordinated performances elicit an empathy as powerful as anything I can remember feeling in a recent film.
  8. 70
    Sarah Polley gives a wonderfully searching performance, as a woman in a state of extreme isolation, in The Secret Life of Words, a compellingly claustrophobic drama set mostly aboard an oil rig.
  9. Reviewed by: Gregory Kirshling
    Can a single scene save a movie? An hour and 20 minutes into The Secret Life of Words, Sarah Polley delivers a halting, evocative 10-minute monologue that finally unlocks the mystery behind her guarded character.
  10. 60
    A tantalizing and beautiful picture made with tremendous integrity, and anchored by two marvelous performances, Isabel Coixet's The Secret Life of Words still, somehow, doesn't quite work.
  11. Reviewed by: Ella Taylor
    In due course skeletons will march out of closets, but the movie yields up its secrets with slow reluctance.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 18 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 4
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 4
  3. Negative: 0 out of 4
  1. Feb 20, 2011
    Whispering words of substantial meaning - As Jane Campion, Susanne Bier, Lynne Ramsay and Sally Potter, Spanish director Isabel Coixet who caught my attention with "My Life Without Me" (2003) has a subtle, lyrical and ravishingly beautiful way of depicting human relations and emotions, which shines through in this heartfelt and universally appealing story about Hanna, a lonely factory worker in Northern Ireland who after being instructed to take a holiday by her boss returns to her lonely life at the coast where she realizes that a holiday is the last thing she wants and ends up taking a job as a nurse at an oil rig.

    Isabel Coixets fifth feature film is mostly set on a distant oil rig focusing on Hanna's evolving relationship with her patient Josef and her meeting with seven men who share her need for solitude and privacy. The role of Hanna is portrayed by Sarah Polley, an actress with a great gift for interpreting internal and low-keyed characters with great conviction, "The Sweet Herafter" (1997) being one of them, and here she practically conveys the soul of the film through her intuitive and quiet though expressive performance, which transcends in the scene where she confides to her patient, gracefully played by Tim Robbins.

    "The Secret Life of Words" is well-paced character study with fragments of poetry that has lively visuals, mood-setting music, many colorful characters and is observantly written and gently filmed by Isabel Coixet. It is a memorable movie experience which through it's depiction of people who turn to their loneliness in order to regain their security succeeds to affirm new perspectives on life.
    Full Review »
  2. Lyn
    Jan 15, 2011
    Quietly powerful. As people on the periphery provide some interesting quirks and questions, the stories of the two main characters unfold slowly. Details that you learn about them & guess about them pull you into their stories and make you hope fervently that each finds a way to recover and rebuild. I found it an interesting exploration of the ways that wounded people tend to be drawn to each other. Full Review »