Directed by Virginie Wagon, starring Anne Coesens, Michel Bompoil, Tony Todd and Quentin Rossi.

'Le Secret' is as French a film as you are likely to encounter, fitting neatly with the current obsession in French cinema for stories about middle class women and infidelity. The directorial debut of Virginie Wagon is at turns a funny, intelligent and quirky work which is ultimately let down by some questionable characterisation.

The story of unfulfilled Marie (Anne Coesens), who is perhaps the most beautiful encyclopaedia salesperson ever, and her relationship with her husband is a fascinating lesson in the mores of bourgeois marriage. Marie embarks on an affair with a mysterious American, played by 'Candyman' star Tony Todd, who fulfils her sexual needs. This affair threatens to ruin Marie's marriage to her intelligent but boring husband Francois.

Although the tale lacks the bite to match Wagon's previous work – she co-authored 'The Dreamlife of Angels' – it is a believable tale, except for Todd's character, Bill, who strays dangerously close to caricature. Bill has no French, whilst Marie has only a little English, meaning their encounters are purely physical. That brings inevitable comparisons with 'Last Tango In Paris', which 'Le Secret' does not measure up to.

All the actors perform well although Todd is criminally underused. His only role appears to be the physical black contrast to Francois' intellectual white man. This at times strays into dangerous stereotype, as Todd is reduced to the 'black threat' that all white women secretly desire. Anne Coesens is the standout performer, radiating a fragile, French beauty that illuminates the silver screen.

Wagon's film comes close to being great but appears to have had a heart by-pass with only Marie engendering sympathy therefore lacking the requisite depth to fulfil the early potential that it shows. 'Le Secret' is by no means without value, but disappoints as the material was clearly there for a truly fantastic film.

John Raftery