A doctor must bid at a mysterious auction. Or her past comes back to haunt her. | The Secret Market

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A doctor must bid at a mysterious auction. Or her past comes back to haunt her. | The Secret Market

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Amy is a successful surgeon who receives a message one evening at her office, telling her to call a number for a mysterious auction: a secret that concerns her is up for the highest bidder. If she doesn’t buy her secret, it will be released to the general public.

She enlists the help of a lawyer, but the lawyer can offer no help. But in her quest to learn more, Amy finds herself pulled in an increasingly dark, sinister underworld of the “secret market” — one that threatens the life she’s worked so hard to build for herself.

Directed by Martina McGlynn and Garret Daly from a script written by Conor Ryan, this smart, compelling thriller builds up a fascinating world lurking underneath the prosperous, ordinary surfaces of the world. As Amy grapples with the implications of her secret and what it would cost if it was revealed to the world, she comes up against how her own identity and life have been shaped by hiding this secret.

Thrillers like this are built on a foundation of tautly excellent writing that must balance world-building, quick pacing and enough character development to make the stakes real and urgent. Through elegantly concise camerawork and polished cinematography, we see how Amy’s life is a well-appointed one. With a successful career, a lovely home and a husband and child, Amy is played by actor Victoria Smurfit as a smart, confident polish of a prosperous professional. But the auction’s threat to reveal her secret imperils all of it.

As Amy pieces together the information, we’re treated to a Wonderland-like descent into a strange, compelling world, full of mysterious, ominous characters (including a shady “broker” played with stylish elan by actor Tadhg Murphy) and a provocative concept at its core. The auction seems like a ritualistic take on blackmail, but as Amy tries to figure out the inner workings, she and the audience must meditate on the central questions posed by the story: how much are we defined by our secrets and how much power should we give them? As Amy grapples with these questions, she finds the key to taking back her power in the situation, which carries her through the sly, propulsive conclusion.

Fans of the recent phenomenon “Squid Game” may find a lot to enjoy in “The Secret Market.” Both are high-concept takes on the thriller genre, and both hint at the hidden machinations of a larger organization hidden under the respectability of ordinary life. Though it ends on a highly satisfying note, Amy’s journey is ripe for expansion as a show or feature, if only to explore the concept of the secret market and who’s behind it — and the larger questions of success, deceit, illusion and how these are all intertwined.

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A doctor must bid at a mysterious auction. Or her past comes back to haunt her. | The Secret Market
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