In Secret (2014) Review

In SecretReleased: February 21, 2014. Directed by: Charlie Stratton. Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Felton, Jessica Lange. Runtime: 101 min.

Note: I saw this way back in September at the Toronto International Film Festival premiere, I just forgot to post my review of this.

“In Secret” is a period piece that has a lot of history behind it. It is classical French literature written by Emile Zola, and this version is adapted by Charlie Stratton, from that novel and the play by Neal Bell. It’s great to see a movie that feels so fresh, yet has so much history behind it – it’s been around for ages!

Elizabeth Olsen takes on the challenging role of Therese, a woman who is haunted by her own personal demons after an unspeakable act. She is forced into a marriage to her cousin Camille (Tom Felton) by her despicable aunt, Madame Raquin (Jessica Lange). When they move to Paris to open up a shop, Therese meets Laurent (Oscar Isaac), someone who might just be her way out. What happens next introduces themes of betrayal, murder, adultery and guilt.

“In Secret” is a fascinating character study. I can see why it’s such a cherished novel; compelling yet deeply unsettling. Therese is sent to live with Madame Raquin and Camille after her mother dies, and she is basically treated as a servant girl, but perhaps near-servant girl was the role of young women in 1860s Paris. Camille tries his best to make her happy. It makes for some incredibly uncomfortable, yet HILARIOUS, scenes. It’s great to see such comic relief in such a sordid ordeal. Since I am not familiar with the source material, I have no idea if this is an adaptation that stays true in tone. All I know, it’s immensely enjoyable.

The comic relief mostly comes from two characters: Olivier (Bridesmaids’ Matt Lucas) and his wife, Suzanne (Shirley Henderson), and the humour is just priceless. Interestingly enough, Henderson was the oldest woman to portray a student in the “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” (and “Goblet of Fire”) as the ghost who haunts the first floor girl’s lavatory, Moaning Myrtle. Her voice is very distinctive. It’s a bit of a reunion for Malfoy and her.

Initially, the character of Therese gains our sympathies, because this seems like a horrible life. After the acts she commits, she wrestles with receiving the audience’s repulsion and sympathies. At the beginning, it was a bit gross to see her marrying her cousin – but she was forced. For the half of the film, Madame Raquin gains more of our sympathies than Therese. Jessica Lange is such a powerful actress, she can easily portray emotions through her eyes – that’s talent. Some of the comic relief members of the cast portray characters that aren’t bright enough to understand the look of fear. It’s a clever way to get a few big laughs. Jessica Lange is a strong supporting, but Elizabeth Olsen brings such power to the role of Therese. It’s such a treat to watch an Olsen who can truly act.

Stratton’s vision is impressive. The primary cast is all around impressive. There are surreal scenes that are as compelling as they are terrifying. Their roles are fascinating, and it’s a great tale of how guilt can eat a person alive. It does raise one primary question in my eyes: How far would you go to live a possibly happier life? It brings other poignant and eerie thoughts to mind, but I better not spoil them.


9 thoughts on “In Secret (2014) Review

  1. OH, this is Thérèse Raquin! UGH. I read the novel last year for school, and had to push my way through it. The book is vile and horrible in every way — there are no redeeming qualities to any of the characters, and I’ll never forget the two-page detailed description of Camille’s body after having been in the sea for two weeks.

    The film seems a bit easier on us, though — and honestly, Tom Felton alone is a reason to see this. Lovely review, thanks for telling me about this!

    1. When it was at TIFF it was simply “Therese,” and I liked that simple title better! But I guess In Secret is much easier to pronounce 🙂 Really? Oh dear! I liked Therese for a fair deal of it. A two-page description? Oh god. I might have to read this then to see the differences in the adaptation… There’s haunting imagery involving something like that, I think the idea of it is much better on screen than being described in length – sounds more disgusting than anything! Thanks Elina 🙂 It’s getting mixed reviews, but I really liked it when it premiered! I loved the comic relief for such a dark tale. I’ll make sure to keep an eye out for your review 🙂

      1. Aw, I’m honoured!

        The word disgusting is actually the most accurate description, though. I hated every single character in the book, but it’s one of these that I never want to read again, but am glad that I read, if you understand what I mean. 😉

  2. I was going to see this because of Elizabeth Olsen, but now I will have to check this out because of Shirley Henderson. I forgot she was in those Harry Potter Flicks and I quite liked her in them. Good review

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