Film Review: Love is Impossible in Alluring Period Horror ‘In Secret’

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

CHICAGO – If stories of Prince Charmings and the liberation from wicked stepmothers are fairy tales, than “In Secret” is the stuff of nightmares, where marriage is not just a prison sentence, but an unlucky life is as well. Based on the novel “Therese Raquin” by Emile Zola as published in 1867, this film’s element of ownership may be considered an artifact in 2014. But thankfully this adaptation earns its own pertinence, as a dark period thriller with real doses of hormonally fueled bad decisions. Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

Zola’s title character is played in this latest film adaptation by Elizabeth Olsen, who will soon assume mega-star status considering her upcoming appearances in “Godzilla” and “The Avengers: Age of Ultron”. Therese is a woman whose life is doomed from the day she is abandoned as a young girl by her father to live with her aunt, Madame Raquin (Jessica Lange), and the woman’s sick child Camille (Tom Felton). As years pass, she lives in misery taking care of her super gross-looking cousin, and when the time comes for her sexual maturity and potential to break free, she faces an even crueler fate. Because she is a bastard child, society says she doesn’t have marriage prospects. But she can, however, marry Camille.

After they are married, the three move to the uglier streets Paris to run a store. With Camille sexually illiterate and still disgusting, Therese is miserable but helpless. Until, through one of the family’s domino games, she meets a dashing struggling artist named Laurent (Oscar Isaac of last year’s “Inside Llewyn Davis”), who takes a very sharp and immediate interest in Therese, who is about to explode with her repressed hormones. Soon after they lock eyes, Therese and Laurent begin a very intense sexual affair, sneaking around the store, sometimes engaging in activity when others are around. The two fall in love, dreaming of waking up in the same bed, but can’t be together unless Therese can get out of her marriage. Considering the rules of the time, there is only one way for her to escape the clutches of marriage, and she and Laurent decide to risk their lives, and their own relationship, to take Camille out of the picture. To quote, Andy Dwyer, “[it] does not go well!”

Handling the trapeze act of British accents in a non-British location well, Olsen’s key weapon in her take on this story is her sensuality. This isn’t new for her, considering how we were introduced to her with her breakout “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” in a role with an open sexuality and a freeness of an exposed body. With “In Secret”, that aspect is bottled up for a vivid representation of one finally getting to take a sexual stride. Olsen is once again game for anything, in a script that isn’t pornographic but creates a very vivid innuendo with its acts. She remains an intense dramatic actress as well, expressing the sad innocence and later the palpable haunted pain within her character. Olsen’s performance is one reason that a story from 1867 can still seem like it has something to say, even in 2014.

“In Secret” opens everywhere on February 21st. Featuring Elizabeth Olsen, Oscar Isaac, Jessica Lange, and Tom Felton. Written and directed by Charlie Stratton, based on Neal Bell’s play version of Emile Zola’s novel “Therese Raquin”. Rated “R”

StarContinue reading for Nick Allen’s full review of ”In Secret”

Elizabeth Olsen and Oscar Isaac
Therese (Elizabeth Olsen) and Laurent (Oscar Isaac) in ‘In Secret’
Photo credit: Roadside Attractions

StarContinue reading for Nick Allen’s full review of ”In Secret”

Martha Clinger's picture

I recently watched this movie

I recently watched this movie and it was better than the current day movies which are almost meaningless. I love the old classics as well.

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