She sometimes blurs the line between a fool and a clown, both of tragic melodramatic shades. In a long shot (about 6 mins or so) of her first meeting with her daughter, Brenda Blethyn's Cynthia Rose Purley acts and laughs and cries and mutters sweetheart (with 'H' silent) all the times. A viewer is left puzzled on what to believe and what to dismiss, much like Hortense (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), her lost daughter. But inspite of all this, we are made aware that she is acting like everyone in distress acts, not to cheat but to protect herself, and in all this mess her humanity surfaces, behind the surface of Secrets and Lies. Blethyn acts as a pivot to Mike Leigh's film not like a central character but a character who is lost amongst others. In the birthday party sequence, we can see the discomfort on her face, the uneasiness to accept a multi-bedroon apartment, which she tries to fill in by uttering inanities like the one who try to fit in between some indifferent people. Rejected and ignored by all, the mother in her is still alive and kicking, but so are the secrets, and so are the prejudices.
At one point in the film, Cynthia says "You gotta laugh, ain't ya sweetheart? Else you'd cry", and Brenda Blethyn, while acting, takes it as a rule to be Cynthia. Brenda Blethyn lets her raw and bare kitchen-sink-slice-of-life act remain so, even in her catharsis scene she remains same Cynthia speaking innumerable 'sweethearts' and 'darlings', does not give a sign of character volte-face. No close-ups for her, no staged dialogues, she is our own sitcom heroine, injured and failed like a dysfunctional family. Although I liked the film (compare the brutal nihilism of Naked to the uneasy tenderness of this film) with some reservations (I found few scenes towards the end out of tune), but Brenda Blethyn's performance is invaluable and becomes almost priceless on the second viewing.