More Soap Opera Than Feature Film, Melodramatic ‘Strictly Confidential’ Disappoints

Forrest Hartman


From the opening line of dialogue to the final, dissatisfying close, Strictly Confidential feels more like a low-budget soap opera than a feature film. The overuse of hyper-dramatic music, extended shots of waterfront scenery, and the fact that everyone in the cast would look natural on the cover of Vogue doesn’t help.


The new film, the feature debut of Damian Hurley (son of star Elizabeth Hurley), is melodrama at its most melodramatic. In fact, there are times when the tone verges on parody, but the swelling music and cast’s deadpan delivery argue that audiences are to take all this excess seriously.  


The story begins when Lily (Hurley) has a tense phone conversation with her daughter, Jemma (Genevieve Gaunt).  Both are grieving the suicide of Jemma’s sister, Rebecca (Lauren McQueen), and Lily decides the best path to closure is inviting all of Rebecca’s friends for a one-year remembrance at her palatial Caribbean island resort. Nobody but Lily seems keen on this plan, but they all show up, supposedly out of respect for Rebecca.



The most devoted of Rebecca’s friends was Mia (Georgia Lock), and she struggles from the outset. Every location prompts memories of her friend. She sometimes sees hallucinatory visions of Rebecca. And when she catches a little girl peering into the bedroom she’s been assigned, she starts a foot chase that leads her to Rebecca’s psychiatrist.


Also, key to the plot are Rebecca’s friend Natasha (Pear Chiravara), Rebecca’s ex-boyfriend James (Freddie Thorp), Mia’s ex-boyfriend Will (Max Parker) and a mysterious fellow resident of the island named Sebastian (Llyrio Boateng). This is all you need to know about the characters, aside from the fact that they have perfect bodies, and Damien Hurley takes ample opportunities to highlight that fact.


As Rebecca plays private detective, these other characters do the kind of sexy things that people with perfect abs are always getting up to … at least in the minds of people who write soap operas and pornographic movies.  



For anyone who may be thinking, “This sounds great! TV shows ranging from Dallas to Beverly Hills 90210 to Gossip Girl have killed it with this formula,” I have bad news. All those guilty pleasures – although built on similar foundations – had more character nuance and (at least in the better seasons) more cohesive and enjoyable plots.


 Strictly Confidential isn’t just self-serious, it is painfully so. Mia often gives the camera lengthy stares demonstrating that she is tortured but not always by what might seem the appropriate emotions. The other characters spout dialogue indicating that they, too, are troubled by Mia’s tragic demise -- right before doing things that demonstrate otherwise. There is a predictable third-act twist, and the film ends with a shot that is presumably meant to be provocative.


Alas, critical viewers will more likely debate whether it is meant as one more bit of overdone melodrama or a continuity error. While not a sign of great filmmaking, at least a debate over that last point could be fun.  


Author Bio:

Forrest Hartman is Highbrow Magazine’s chief film critic.


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