Secretary — adapted from Mary Gaitskill’s short story, Bad Behaviour — seems at times to veer a little to the side of pure male fantasy but finds its heart in an unorthodox though empowering relationship.

Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a repressed, masochistically inclined young woman, just released from a mental institution. Her new employer, Mr Grey (James Spader) quickly leads her into a world of twisted chemistry developed brilliantly through their charged pauses and subtle yet tantalising exchanged glances. Gyllenhaal does a remarkable job exploring Lee’s character, as she blossoms under the dominance of Mr. Grey, from bashful and hesitant to confident and even slightly sassy — eventually a protagonist in their sadomasochistic exploits.

Whatever the movie’s sexual politics, at its heart is a touching story about two lonely people who fulfil each other’s unusual needs and find a way to turn that into love (via bondage).

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