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'The Secrets She Keeps,' Starring Laura Carmichael, is a Strong Psychological Thriller
July 16, 2020  | By David Hinckley

Honestly, it's a little uncomfortable to see dramatizations about women whose need for a baby makes them criminally unbalanced.

But since the Australian drama The Secrets She Keeps is rooted in a true story, however loosely, producers would probably argue that it sometimes happens, which makes it fair game for a story.

The Secrets She Keeps, a six-part series that has already aired with considerable success in Australia and the U.K., becomes available Thursday on the streaming service Sundance Now.

In this case, the unstable person is Agatha Fyfle, played by Laura Carmichael (top) of Downton Abbey fame. If Edith on Downton was occasionally annoying, Agatha here is downright unnerving.

With straggly hair and an unsettling look in her eyes, Agatha is clearly off-center from the first time we meet her.

She is also pregnant. About eight months, she says, and it seems to be about the only happy thing in an otherwise rather isolated life.

As we join the story, she is just getting around to telling her ex-boyfriend, Hayden (Michael Sheasby), that before he left for the military, he also left her expecting.

That's only the tip of Agatha's weird behavior. The more central part, for purposes of The Secrets She Keeps, involves her relationship with Meghan O'Shaughnessy (Jessica De Gouw, top), who is also eight months pregnant.

They meet, seemingly by chance, on one of Meghan's regular shopping trips to the market where Agatha stocks shelves.

Meghan also hosts a parenting blog, and it turns out Agatha is one of her followers. Agatha parlays these thin threads into a relationship, and while we won't spoil where that leads, anyone who saw the 1992 movie The Hand That Rocks the Cradle will have some idea of the possibilities.

The Secrets She Keeps isn't Hand 2.0. It simply shares some of the intensity that characters feel about impending motherhood.

The menfolk play important roles in the storyline, but as characters, they are secondary in the way women are often secondary in movies about guy stuff.

Meghan's TV sports producer husband, Jack (Michael Dorman), and his best friend, Simon Beecher (Ryan Corr), both play a significant part in shaping Meghan's life and moods. But it's her reactions that shape the story.

While Meghan seems to have a perfect life that Agatha envies and spends a fair amount of time on her blog recasting things to make it sound like she's got everything in harmony, in reality, Meghan has problems, too.

Though maybe not as many as Agatha.

Carmichael and De Gouw make a strong lead pair, sometimes almost bonding and sometimes at wary odds. We're not crazy about either of them, though we wish Jack would treat Meghan with a little more affection, and we wish anyone would be nice to Agatha.

The Secrets She Keeps isn't exactly "chick lit," though it's told mostly through a female prism. Based on a novel by Michael Robotham, it's rooted somewhat loosely in real-life events.

The TV adaptation isn't as disturbing as the real-life case. But anyone who's looking for an anti-rom-com has come to the right spot.

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