‘In Secret’: A by-the-book telling of Zola’s adulterous tale
By MARY HOULIHAN For Sun-Times Media February 20, 2014 7:52PM
Her husband’s captivating friend (Oscar Isaac) tempts Therese (Elizabeth Olsen) in “In Secret.” | ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS
‘IN SECRET’ ★★1⁄2
Therese Elizabeth Olsen
Laurent Oscar Isaac
Camille Tom Felton
Madame Raquin Jessica Lange
Roadside Attractions presents a film written and directed by Charlie Stratton, based on the novel “Therese Raquin” by Emile Zola and Neal Bell’s stage play. Running time: 107 minutes. Rated R (for sexual content and brief violent images). Opens Friday at local theaters.
Updated: March 22, 2014 6:11AM
Emile Zola’s 1867 novel “Therese Raquin” is a sinister tale of adultery and murder set among the lower classes in 19th century Paris. Its publication was regarded as scandalous; Parisians ate it up. Television and stage director Charlie Stratton makes his feature film debut with “In Secret,” a faithful adaptation of Zola’s dark tale of a woman, her lover and the guilt that ultimately shatters their lives and the lives of those around them.
Therese (Elizabeth Olsen), an illegitimate child, is left with her aunt, Madame Raquin (Jessica Lange), where she is raised alongside her sickly cousin Camille (Tom Felton). It is not a heartless situation, just a boring and lifeless one; her domineering aunt does love her, and Camille refers to her as “my little Therese.”
So when Madame Raquin suggests the cousins marry, Therese raises no real objections, although you can see the thought “there must be more to love” settle into her resigned gaze. A move from the country to Paris finds the threesome living above a dingy haberdasher’s shop run by Madame Raquin.
One day Camille brings home a childhood friend, Laurent (Oscar Isaac of “Inside Llewyn Davis”). The men are a study in contracts — Camille a sweaty, laughable buffoon; Laurent an Adonis with a captivating manner. The moment Laurent locks eyes with Therese you know there is only trouble in their future. As they meet for trysts right under the nose of Madame Raquin, they push the boundaries of a dangerous love (or intoxicating lust) that eventually will consume and haunt them.
Olsen and Isaac smolder nicely on cue in their scenes together, and Lange easily fits into the role of the domineering Madame Raquin, although her severity sometimes borders on the laughable. Felton brings a perfect deathly pallor and whininess to the doomed Camille. Rounding out the cast and portraying the family’s concerned Parisian friends are British actors Shirley Henderson (always excellent), Matt Lucas, John Kavanagh and Mackenzie Crook.
There is nothing really wrong with “In Secret,” yet in the end one feels dissatisfied. It’s as if you’ve just sat through a dry academic lecture dissecting the novel. A new perspective on the classic story with more psychological depth and less respect for the source material would have made this 19th century tale more palatable for a 21st century audience.