This was not a film I had been planning to review, but instead was one that had been thrust upon me by the greasy hands of fate. I woke up wondering what my second post would be about this week, knowing that other pieces I had written wouldn’t be up for at least a few more days. Eyes half-open, I reached for my phone, opened my emails, and there sat a recommendation from Netflix: ‘we’ve just added a film you might like!’. How I wish they had been correct. They suggested I watch their new original film Secret Obsession, the sepia poster featuring a bespectacled male model type looming behind a cautious, disturbed looking woman (who is known to some as The Suite Life’s London Tipton). My hopes were not high, and my expectations were just about met; this is a somewhat exploitative, incredibly unbelievable, and surprisingly violent movie about a man who can’t deal with rejection, and the woman who suffers for it.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young woman with amnesia must be blindly in want of the first man who claims to be her husband. At least, this is the setup of Secret Obsession, a film that Netflix essentially spoils in the trailer and description anyway – great job, guys. We begin following an unknown woman through the dark as she is chased by an unknown assailant with a knife. Eventually, she escapes their clutches but is unluckily struck by a car, resulting in (of course) amnesia and an inability to walk for longer than seconds at a time. Luckily, a hunk in glasses appears at the hospital with wedding photos claiming to be her husband – the hospital (of course) asks remarkably few questions and proceeds to let him take her to his remote mountain mansion.
Already alarm bells should be ringing in your head. For a ‘psychological thriller’ such as Secret Obsession to be convincingly disturbing, the actions of the people trapped within the nightmare must be understandable, if not entirely justifiable. Brenda Song allows lead character Jennifer to be both panic-stricken and resourceful, and while Mike Vogel is sometimes a little awkward in his delivery, he is genuinely intimidating at points as Russell, the man who claims to love her. But it’s hard for any tension to be built when 1. the twist is so obvious from the getgo, and 2. no one acts in a reasonable manner that could have prevented how the entire terrible situation unfolds. Without spoiling too much (as Netflix likely will for you anyway), the ending doesn’t truly address the mental damage that Jennifer now likely suffers with, rendering the film not a psychological thriller, but a flimsy melodrama where characters limply go through the motions. After an hour and a half with Jennifer, I don’t think I could name a single one of her personality traits – that’s an issue when her safety and happiness drives so much of the film.
I imagine this is already clear, but Secret Obsession is not worth your time, or anyone else’s. For director Peter Sullivan – a man who seems to believe women wake up in their false eyelashes – to call this a psychological thriller is absolutely baffling. Were it attempting to be ridiculous, I may have been more sympathetic, but the fact that he is obviously trying to appeal to rational fears made the film become laughable very quickly. The Sun, as always, is wrong – I slept pretty soundly after this one, and if you watch it, I imagine you will too.