Thérèse Raquin (Elizabeth Olsen) is sent to live with her aunt (Jessica Lange) and her sickly cousin Camille (Tom Felton), after her mother dies. When she grows up, she is given to her cousin in marriage and the family go to live in Paris. When they arrive, Camille encounters an old friend Laurent (Oscar Isaac) and rekindles their friendship. It is not long, however, before Thérèse and Laurent’s fascination with one another takes a turn for the murderous.
Based on Neal Bell’s play – which in turn is, of course, based on Émile Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin – In Secret is a film that is filled with great characters and strong performances, but a sense of familiarity and strange pacing lets the story down.
Elizabeth Olsen carries on her streak of playing great roles as Thérèse; at once shy and sexually curious, Olsen makes the character engaging and alluring. Her gaze on the object of her affection is electric, which turns the traditional cinematic gaze on its head. As time passes and relationships change, however, Olsen is not given enough time to develop her hatred, and it seems to erupt from nowhere. Oscar Isaac is warm and engaging as Laurent, but suffers the same oddly paced fate as Olsen.
Jessica Lange obviously has a blast with her campy performance, but since it is so high on melodrama, it sometimes feel as though she is in a different film to the rest of the cast, and Tom Felton almost shakes off his Harry Potter mantle, and gives the strongest and most natural performance we have seen from him to date. Still though, he is the weak link of the central four. The rest of the cast is made up of Matt Lucas, Shirley Henderson, John Kavanagh and Mackenzie Crook, who all do fine with the little they are given to do.
The story is one of secret love – as the somewhat terrible title would lead you to believe – but once the love is put on hold for the sake of something more sinister, the film starts to lose pace and shape. This means that a day and eight months often take up the same amount of screen time, leading to some very confused timelines. Also, it is often clear that the story was one for the stage, since many of the scenes feel very ‘stagey’, and not always in a good way.
In Secret is director Charlie Stratton’s first major film and, while he manages well with the drama and the melodrama, it is in the detail that In Secret goes from being a great film to a mediocre one.
In Secret is a film populated with a great cast and some solid performances, but some messy direction and script work means that the movie often drags its heels and feels a lot longer than it really is. A shame, as there are touches of greatness here that are not fully explored.