TV Review: Netflix's 'Holiday Secrets' Surprises And Enthralls

Holiday Secrets Zeit der Geheimnisse Lara Leonie Benesch Corinna Harfouch Eva Vivi Svenja Jung Netflix
In “Holiday Secrets” (“Zeit der Geheimnisse”), two sisters return to their grandmother’s house for Christmas and reunite with their estranged mom in a picturesque seaside home. For three episodes on Netflix, viewers are taken into a tale that weaves from the present into varying stages of the past. You will have to keep a sharp eye out to tell which stages.

It is a miniseries, which are sometimes better than movies. They allow the story to have greater depth when exploring their characters. While in comparison to a television show, miniseries have a film’s definable ending to build towards. “Holiday Secrets” is a prime example of why the medium is so effective. You get in and out for a brief visit that conveys a good deal.

Corinna Harfouch plays Eva, the matriarch, who has raised her granddaughters. Both of whom could not be more different. The elder sister is the flighty, self-involved, and petulantly sour Vivi (Svenja Jung). Vivi's younger sister, Lara (Leonie Benesch), is studious, caring, and recently engaged. Then their mother, Sonja (Christiane Paul), shows up.

“Holiday Secrets” lets the awkward air of a cold reunion between mother and daughters hang in the bitter air. While the title hints at loads of surprising disclosures, there are few its characters are not aware of. The truth surrounding many open secrets proves a painful past that each tread lightly in an attempt to move forward.

Lara and her grandmother, Eva, are by far the most sympathetic of the characters. What they endure because of Sonja and Vivi is heartbreaking. “Holiday Secrets” does not preach that either Sonja or Vivi characters are great people. Many tell them they are not, and they are hard-pressed to contradict them.

Is there remorse? There is a recognition of their flaws without any tears that really indicate they are sorry for who they are. “Holiday Secrets” brings up some interesting questions about a person’s nature and if we can fault them for treating loved ones horribly. Is it in their nature? Yes. Does it excuse them? It is tough to tell where the show stands.

Evenly paced, “Holiday Secrets” avoids growing stagnant. Without having to literally time travel like in the sci-fi drama “Dark,” the series shows what a significant impact the past has on the present. Similar to that series, “Holiday Secrets” does an excellent job in crafting its characters amid an elaborate timeline. It is an impressive feat.

The performances are all top-drawer with Corinna Harfouch and Christiane Paul, particularly wowing as mother and daughter, respectively. As far as surprises go, there are no real jaw-dropper to speak of. “Holiday Secrets” does manage to mightily surprise in the least expected area.

I wish the sisters’ relationship got a little more fleshed out. Vivi is no Elsa from “Frozen” and her unwillingness to see how wrong she has been in how she has treated her younger sister never dawns on her. In her mind, Vivi is the only victim of hers and Lara’s mom. Their mom. Vivi acts like an only child.

Unlike other family dramas, “Holiday Secrets” acknowledges this with varying points of view on what has unfolded. A rarity when it comes to a script. Intentional or not, you tend to hear the writer’s opinion shine through. “Holiday Secrets” seems to never take sides. It is a voyeuristic angle that makes everything all the more realistic. Is it worth the brief binge on Netflix?

Absolutely. At three episodes, no more than 40 minutes apiece, “Holiday Secrets,” is cerebral viewing. You will not feel the warmth of a Nancy Meyers’ movie by the time you finish or the Christmas feelings of a Hallmark movie. (Christmas is a backdrop, not a character.) However, you will get some food for thought, and it can make for a good Holiday dinner.

Rating: 7.5/10

“Holiday Secrets” (“Zeit der Geheimnisse”) is currently streaming on Netflix.

[Featured Image by Netflix]