By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In Secret is a dark, brooding erotic thriller based on the naturalistic 1867 novel, Therese Raquin, by Emile Zola.
Its themes of love, lust, adultery, and murder are woven so organically into Zola’s source material that they still pack the power to grab and move us.
Originally titled “Therese,” In Secret is set in Paris in the 1860s, where and when Therese Raquin is an indifferently married and sexually repressed young woman played by Elizabeth Olsen.
The loveless forced marriage that antiheroine Therese is trapped in, at age 21, is with her sickly and self-absorbed first cousin, Camille, played by Tom Felton, with whom she has grown up.
The match has been arranged by Camille’s severe and overbearing aunt, Madame Raquin, played by Jessica Lange, who dotes on her son to an extravagant degree and whom Therese was brought to live with by her mother after the death of her father.
Madame Raquin and the young marrieds leave rural life in France and proceed to Paris where, by day, Therese works in their shop and at night she watches as her aunt plays dominoes with her group of friends.
Then Therese meets her husband’s friend and business partner, Laurent, a worldly, sensual artist played by Oscar Isaac. The electricity between them is immediately obvious to them (and to us), and they quickly embark on an illicit affair, which eventuates into their conspiratorial plan to murder Camille by drowning him during a boat trip and make it look like an accident so that they can elope and be together forever.
You know how these things usually turn out on the movie screen. So, don’t expect much in the way of surprise as the guilt-ridden conspirators argue and the glaring Madame Raquin suspects. But do expect the kind of skillful work from the principal players in an acting hat trick that takes away our need for surprise.
Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene) turns in another in a string of strong performances, as does Isaac in his breakthrough year (Inside Llewyn Davis). The doomed lovers offered by these two rising stars absolutely command attention.
And they’re nicely showcased alongside veteran Lange, who is her usual splendid self, contributing a manipulative matriarch who gives her young co-stars someone and something substantial to play off of.
Director Charlie Stratton, a veteran of television making his feature-film directorial debut, also did the adaptation of the novel, Therese Raquin, which French director Marcel Carne brought to the screen with the same title in 1953, a French-Italian production that starred Simone Signoret.
That was one of the novel’s several big-screen incarnations, and it’s also been produced as a play and adapted for television.
So we’ll conspire to kill 3 stars out of 4 for a tragic, noirish crime drama in the classic mode that’s solidly absorbing as it literally and literately carries In Secret to the grave.