A psychological drama that’s neither psychologically revelatory nor dramatically interesting, the European-made Secrets might never have reached American screens, because it’s hard to imagine U.S. viewers getting excited about 92 minutes of poorly written and sloppily filmed ennui. However, British actress Jacqueline Bisset unexpectedly transitioned from decorative starlet to full-fledged sex symbol thanks to The Deep (1977), a box-office hit that prominently featured the voluptuous Bisset wearing a wet T-shirt. Secrets, which was originally titled Adultery, features Bisset nude in one scene, so the film’s producers unleashed the film on the American market in early 1978, bogusly marketing the picture as erotica. Bisset, understandably, was not pleased. Cowritten and directed by Englishman Philip Saville, the picture stars Bisset as Jennifer Wood, a bored housewife whose husband, Allan (Robert Powell), is a failed actor reluctantly pursuing an office job. While Allan trudges through an all-day job interview, Jennifer ditches their preteen daughter, Judy (Tarka Kings). Then Jennifer wanders around a city park and mopes, eventually meeting a wealthy middle-aged man named Raoul Kramer (Per Oscarsson). He talks Jennifer into visiting his nearby home.
Turns out Raoul is a widower, and Jennifer is a doppelganger of his dead wife. As the afternoon unfolds, Saville tediously cuts back and forth between the activities of Allan, Jennifer, and Judy. Allan fumbles the interview but flirts with his interviewer, Beatrice (Shirley Knight). Jennifer dresses up like Raoul’s dead wife and sleeps with him. Judy hangs out with a neighbor, who gives her a plant. Except for some pretentious dialogue and voiceover, that’s all that happens in Secrets, and even the heavily marketed nude scene is underwhelming. Bisset is indeed exposed and glorious, but the scene comprises tame postcoital cuddling, and it’s unpleasant to watch the 17-years-older Oscarsson manhandle Bisset. Secrets isn’t smut, but Saville’s filmmaking is so inept—and the portrayals are so trite—that the movie is deeply boring. Worse, the knowledge of how Bisset’s participation was misrepresented gives the movie a distasteful quality; what the actress undoubtedly presumed to be grown-up drama somehow morphed into lurid exploitation.