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Film / Secrets of the Heart

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Secrets of the Heart is a 1997 film from Spain, directed by Montxo Armendariz.

The protagonist is Javi, a boy of approximately ten years old. Javi and his older brother Juan spend the week with their aunts Rosa and Maria in the city, where they attend a private Catholic school. On the weekend they take the bus to their home, a farmhouse in a rural village, where they live with their mother Teresa and uncle Ignacio, their father Antonio having died some years before. Over the course of the Easter holiday, the relentlessly inquisitive young Javi will discover some long-hidden seems the family is hiding several secrets.



  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Aunt Rosa is a lonely spinster. Aunt Maria is an alcoholic who also had an affair with a married man; she rekindles the affair and they run away together. The brother's father Antonio didn't die from a gun accident, he killed himself. The reason he killed himself was the fact that his brother Ignacio was having an affair with his wife. And as it turns out, "Uncle" Ignacio is actually Javi's father.
  • Call-Back: Across the street from the apartment building, there's a park with a stream, and a bridge made of paving stones with no handrails. In the very first scene, Juan makes fun of his little brother for being too scared of the stone bridge and taking the safer handrail-equipped bridge instead. Near the end, when Aunt Maria is walking away on the stone bridge, Javi walks across it to catch her, symbolizing how he is growing up.
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  • Coming-of-Age Story: A schoolboy learns about sex, learns about the frailties of his parents, and learns who his real father is.
  • Driven to Suicide: In the back story, Antonio killed himself because he found out that his wife was cheating on him with his brother.
  • Foreshadowing: Young Javi gets a little sex ed lesson when he takes family dog Perla out for a walk, and Perla the girl dog meets a boy dog who proceeds to mate with her. This foreshadows a later scene in which he hears his mother and uncle having sex in the home.
  • Hangover Sensitivity: Maria wakes up with a wicked hangover; she blames it on blood pressure.
  • Lady Drunk: Aunt Maria drinks excessively, often passing out on the bed and waking up with a hangover which she blames on "blood pressure". It's implied that she is broken-hearted after the end of her affair with Ricardo.
  • The Mistress: A single line from Aunt Rosa about Ricardo's family indicates that Aunt Maria is this. Having restarted the affair, Aunt Maria says she doesn't care anymore, and she and Ricardo run away.
  • One-Gender School: Javi and Juan go to a Catholic school for boys.
  • Primal Scene: In addition to the Right Through the Wall scene described below, Javi also peeks in the old, formerly empty house where Ricardo is now staying. He sees Ricardo having sex with Maria on a couch.
  • Right Through the Wall: Juan, messing with Javi, tells Javi that if he goes and sits in the seat where their father died, he'll hear his father's ghost. So Javi does, and hears the sounds of his mom and uncle having sex in the next room.
  • School Play: Javi is playing the lead of "Chickpea" in the school play, some sort of fairy tale wherein a boy wanders into the forest and runs afoul of an evil wizard.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Juan and his friends like to sneak cigarettes to be more grownup.
  • Title Drop: Teresa tells Javi that people keep their worst secrets in their heart.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: With a bus, but it's basically the same, as Aunt Maria trots after the bus and tells the boys to be good at their mom's house.


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