Emile Zola’s “Thérèse Raquin” gets its first major big screen English language treatment in Charlie Stratton’s “In Secret,” which is technically also an adaptation of Neal Bell’s play based on the Zola novel but retains the pinpoint exploration of human nature that made the original work so influential.
It’s a tragedy captured in hushed tones and muted colors, a story in which everyone and no one is to blame. The filmmaker approaches the material with an admirable lack of judgment, content to observe as a confluence of unavoidable factors builds toward misfortune.
The title character (Elizabeth Olsen) is a lonely young woman living in a grim, spare 1860s Paris home above a fabric shop, shared with her overbearing aunt/mother-in-law (Jessica Lange) and wan cousin Camille (Tom Felton) to whom she has been trapped in a chaste marriage. His friend Laurent (Oscar Isaac), an artist with a dynamic personality, offers Thérèse an outlet to release her passions.
This story depends on subtle undercurrents, with Thérèse’s internal agony amplified by the stuffy world she inhabits, a culture defined by restrictive conduct in which the rigidness can be felt down to its very marrow: creaky wooden floors; spare, low-lit interiors. The movie has an old-fashioned, drawing-room drama feel.
Stratton has great empathy for Thérèse while Olsen smartly undercuts simplistic perceptions, showing us the full measure of a woman who must weigh her moral code against the desires of her heart and the promise of future happiness.
Directed by Charlie Stratton
Starring Elizabeth Olsen, Oscar Isaac, Tom Felton, Jessica Lange