In Secret (2013)

Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Felton, Jessica Lange, Oscar Isaac,
Thérèse grows up with her aunt and cousin. Around 1860 the aunt decides they move to Paris and that her son and Thérèse get married. The joy- and loveless life changes when her husband brings a friend home. The affair turns ugly for...
  • 6.1 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Émile Zola, Neal Bell, Writer:
  • Charlie Stratton, Director:
  • William Horberg, Mickey Liddell, Pete Shilaimon, Producer:


8 / 10

A nice little story that challenges the conventional protagonist vs. antagonist formula

Elizabeth Olsen's latest title role performance is not as showy as her first; when she broke out with "Martha Marcy May Marlene" in 2011, her character's heart and mind were the primary focus of the film. She used her bland looks like the Japanese Noh mask or the Greek Archaic smile, which you could interpret as an expression of any emotion you would like, thus lending mysteries and ambiguities. In "Therese" Olsen goes a lot lighter, allowing us to detach from, or even dislike the apparent protagonist if we choose so. By contrast, Therese's mother-in-law, Madame Raquin is played by Jessica Lange with a heavy emotional emphasis. Few actresses entertain the idea of playing characters with special physical conditions. Fewer can play them convincingly. Even fewer can play them without words. With Lange they all come as standard. While seemingly playing an antagonist, Lange makes a surprisingly gratifying character. Tom Felton's frail Camille is Therese's arranged husband, and Oscar Isaac's strong Laurent is Therese's extra-marital affection; these two actors are also solid as they play friends and enemies with polar opposite characteristics. While by employing a comedic tone director Charlie Stratton takes away some gravity from the serious subject, he nonetheless makes the antique material accessible by wider audience. It is a rather simple story with nothing mysterious about its plot or its characters' feelings and motives, but at the same time, so cleverly ambiguous on the moral ground that you cannot easily decide for which character to root.

7 / 10

When struggling to breathe makes you drown

In life, people all have shades of grey. We have good moments and bad. At times, a person can be our best friend, and at other times, he can seem our worst enemy. A family member can be our greatest ally, and then suddenly our fiercest obstacle. But for the purposes of cinema, films often eliminate these complexities. They present us with heroes who are immaculate in virtually every way and villains who have no redeeming qualities whatsoever ? and they expect us to cheer and boo accordingly. But that certainly isn't the case in Charlie Stratton's first feature film, In Secret . In this dark and captivating drama based on the novel Therese by Emile Zola, the lines are brilliantly blurred. There's no hero to worship or villain to wish dead ? just people with good moments and frighteningly bad moments trying to get through life. When Therese Raquin (Elizabeth Olsen) is left with her Aunt (Jessica Lange) after her mother's death, her life doesn't seem to be off to the best start. After years caring for her ailing cousin Camille (Tom Felton), her aunt announces that the two of them will be wed and they'll all move to the city. Understandably, this isn't the life the imaginative Therese had dreamt for her future. But dutifully, she does as she's told ? and quickly sinks deeper and deeper into the hands of this family she never truly wanted to be part of. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the strong, charismatic, and handsome Laurent (Oscar Isaac) presents himself and she finds hope and love for the first time in her young life. But with a needy husband and overbearing aunt, the two realize they can never truly be together ? unless they take matters into their own hands. And so begins a dark and terrifying psychological study of what happens when people are desperate to pursue their wants, regardless of the damage those desires may cause. Although the average summary of the film might have you going into the cinema expecting a tortured romantic drama, Stratton isn't afraid to take sharp turns without a moment's notice. So be prepared for plenty of darkness and suspense. Your notions of bad guys and good guys quickly disappear as you find yourself cheering for one character one moment and feeling terrified of her at the next. Olsen, Lange, Felton, and Isaac carry off these depictions of refreshingly multi-dimensional characters almost effortlessly and with captivating honesty. Stratton's screenplay and direction brilliantly capture the complexities of human wants and needs ? and the devastating effects of our desperate attempts to achieve them. Everyone just wants to be happy ? but at what cost?

8 / 10

Very dark and intense story, efficiently and simply told....

When I usually go to see movies which cover a past period of time, I take the trouble of not reading too much about the background or skipping the book it is based on, so that I may judge the product purely on its merits and the strengths of the entire production crew that went into it's making. It pleases me to share with you that "In Secret" ranks as one such fine effort, right from the beginning it transports you to the mid-1800s era of rural France, and tells us the story of little Therese Raquin (Elizabeth Olsen). This effort has good production values, for not even a single moment does your attention drift away from the development of the characters, seeing them grow up, make the ties binding to the extent that Therese clearly suffers from the over bearing domination of her mother-in-law, played brilliantly by Jessica Lange. She gives the entire movie a continuation of the thread for the story, at times you feel her looks, demeanor and restrained but piercing performance, towards the end, are very absorbing. Hats off to the casting crew for making the right call here, she was born to play this role. I wish to thank my fellow cinema mates - Isabelle and Lisa (you know who you are!) - for sharing their insights with me post the viewing. Correct use of lighting does give this piece the right feel of the suffocating & dreary lower working class Paris conditions, the same dark focus and clever use of perspective subtly nudge the viewer into feeling very tense as the story of betrayal develops. The very same way the characters demons grow, speaks to the way all of them absorb the souls of the players and share them with us flawlessly. As my fellow cinema watchers also shared with me, this movie is not for everyone, and only serious lovers of subtle simple but powerful period stories will appreciate this work. I suspect they are also right in anticipating that we may see many more French literary pieces coming to life on the big screen in the next few years. I give this movie an 8 star rating, simply because I appreciated every frame contributing to the telling of the story, no wasted effort or superfluous diversions whatsoever.

4 / 10

Oft filmed Zola abysmal waste of time.

Is Emile Zola's novel, Therese Raquin, in the public domain? With a dozen silent, sound and TV productions one would think the last word had been beaten out of it by now but back it comes in this sluggish bore probably made on the cheap in Serbia by a hack taking his swing (and missing by a country mile) at the big time featuring a tired scenery chewing performance by Jess Lange so abrasive you can almost hear her teeth grinding. Therese (Liz Olson) in a loveless arranged marriage to her sickly cousin Camille (Tom Felton) is bored, emotionally abused and sexually unfulfilled living in the country. When the opportunity to re-locate in Paris presents itself her heart soars but the frustration dynamic remains upon arrival, wiling her days away in a drab shop, her nights spent watching Madame Raquin (Lange) and friends play dominoes. When an old friend of Camille's, Laurent (Oscar Issac) makes the scene the passion amps up and tragedy awaits. In its rather shapeless telling director Mike Stratton mutes In Secret's power with sluggish pacing and tepid desire from his star crossed lovers in passionate moments as he pays lip service to censors with self conscious compositions that render most scenes with a stiffness and restraint. As Therese, Olson is wide eyed, dull and out of her depth, stretching little as she goes from innocent to cold conspirator. Oscar Issac gives a spot on imitation of Tony Bennett at times and that's part of the problem. He's more Rat Pack than 19th Century gentleman. Lange starts strong but soon veers into screeching ham in no time. In addition a group of minor supporting characters (the domino crowd) move en masse about the film like a gaggle of geese with insipid self importance and disapproving glances. Standing on it's own In Secret flaccidly fails on all levels. When compared to the 1980 television version featuring the powerfully passionate performances of Kate Nelligan and Bryan Cox with the redoubtable Mona Washburne turning in a wonderfully measured performance as Madame Raquin it looks more like a community theatre production.

9 / 10

Love and sex in 19th Century Paris

In Secret (2013) is a French film directed by Charlie Stratton, who also wrote the screenplay. The movie is based on a play, which, in turn, was based on Emile Zola's novel Therese Raquin. The film is set in 1860's Paris. (Filmed in Belgrade, where the narrow shop-lined streets still exist.) Elizabeth Olsen plays the title character. She is an orphan, raised by her aunt with the primary purpose of providing her cousin with a suitable wife. Her cousin Camille, played well by Tom Felton, is sickly and inadequate in many ways, including his sexual abilities. Therese finds herself trapped in a marriage that's not only loveless, but also sexless. She lives with her husband in the same household with her domineering mother- in-law Madame Raquin, played by Jessica Lange. Into the mix comes the handsome Lauent (Oscar Isaac). The sexual attraction between Laurent and Therese is instant and demands consummation. That's the basic plot. Whether you enjoy the rest of the movie depends on your thoughts about what happens after Therese and Laurent meet. I liked this film on several levels. It looks and feels real--we know this isn't Paris, and the shop owned by Madame Raquin is a set, but they have an authentic feel to them. The actors are all seasoned professionals, and they perform extremely well. And, the plot--while not exactly original--captures your interest and attention to the end. We saw this movie at the excellent Little Theatre in Rochester. It will work better on the large screen than the small, but it will still be worth seeing on DVD. I recommend it.