Directed by Amy Berg, ‘Every Secret Thing’ is a 2014 crime drama film revolving around two young girls who committed an unimaginable crime as pre-teens, whose pasts return to haunt them years later. After Alice Manning (Danielle Macdonald) and Ronnie Fuller (Dakota Fanning) get released for their involvement in the kidnapping and murder of Oliva Barnes, a baby, another young biracial girl, Brittany Lyttle, goes missing. During the missing person investigation, Detective Porter (Elizabeth Banks), an empathetic and understanding woman with a connection to Olivia’s case, looks into Alice and Ronnie as her prime suspects.
Through Alice, Ronnie, and Brittany Lyttle’s characters, the film explores several different themes of manipulation, guilt, adoption, and parenthood. The characters are also instrumental in the film’s base premise, which revolves around a kidnapping with complicated motives and results. Therefore, if you’re curious to know if any of these characters have a basis in reality, here is everything you need to know about the same.
Are Alice Manning, Ronnie Fuller, and Brittany Lyttle Real People?
No, Alice Manning, Ronnie Fuller, and Brittany Lyttle are not based on real people. The film, written by Amy Berg, is based on a 2003 eponymous fictional crime novel by Laura Lippman and contains an almost identical plot and characters to the latter. The book remains a work of fiction with no official connection to real-life people or events. Still, a connection can be made between the story presented in ‘Every Secret Thing’— both the film and the book— and the real-life case of James Bulger.
In 1993, two ten-year-old friends, Jon Venables, and Robert Thompson, kidnapped, tortured, and killed a toddler named James Bulger. The boys left Bulger’s body in Liverpool by a railway line. Convicted as murderers at the age of eleven, Venables and Thompson were released in 2011 after serving a sentence of eight years at a children’s unit. Although neither Alice nor Ronnie have a firm connection to Venables or Thompson, the similarities between their stories are noticeably apparent.
Nevertheless, aside from those surface-level details, Alice and Ronnie are distinct characters created to explore drastically different storylines and character arcs. Since the film consists of two narratives seven years apart, Alice and Ronnie can be found as almost two separate sets of characters. At 11, Ronnie is an artistic, socially othered kid who finds comfort and safety with her kind neighbor, Helen.
Due to her abusive home life, Ronnie’s worldview is distorted and inherently colored by her experiences to the point where she is unable to distinguish her own pain from Olivia Barnes. The choices Ronnie makes lead her to commit unimaginable horrors, and she’s aptly affected by them, instantly remorseful. Likewise, the rendition of her we see as an eighteen-year-old is a similar one riddled with guilt but trying her best to start anew. As such, Ronnie’s character is ripe with realistic emotions that appeal to the audience regardless of her dark past.
On the other hand, Alice’s character presents a more complex alternative about a girl who’s intentional and manipulative about her crimes. Although Alice only ever comes across as a brat in her young years, it’s hard not to view her as an irredeemable antagonist as an adult. Through this contrast, the film conveys the nuance that comes with such cases involving young criminals.
Alice’s relationship with motherhood also forms another significant aspect of her character. Her distraught relationship with her mother manifests as constant passive-aggressive comments and insults, which take their toll on Alice. Her story also depicts some real-life issues through her position as an unwitting victim of statutory rape and a teenage mother forced to give up her child. Her interactions with those situations and how she chooses to weaponize them to her benefit set aside, Alice’s struggles may be a reflection of reality for some people.
In the same vein, Brittany Lyttle, the three-year-old kid who goes missing, depicts the dangers of kidnapping. According to Child Find of America, an estimated 2300 kids are reportedly missing across the country daily, with reasons varying from parental/stranger abduction to runaways or lost kids. As such, even though Brittany has little to no connection to reality, her story parallels a serious real-life issue. Nevertheless, all three characters are only works of fiction with a firm basis in Lippman’s novel, but not real life.
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