Who’s afraid of Thérèse Raquin?

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM - DON­ALD CLARKE

IN SE­CRET ★★ Di­rected by Char­lie Strat­ton. Star­ring El­iz­a­beth Olsen, Tom Fel­ton, Os­car Isaac, Jes­sica Lange 15A cert, limited re­lease, 106 min

Hav­ing be­gun life as Thérèse Raquin, this lat­est adap­ta­tion of Émile Zola’s sen­sa­tional novel changed its ti­tle to the in­stantly for­get­table (pan­icked critic checks notes) In Se­cret to avoid scar­ing off view­ers wary of the French lan­guage. It’s hard to imag­ine a mass au­di­ence fall­ing for the ploy and rush­ing to Se­cret Love, My Se­cret, Se­cret Af­fair or what­ever it’s called.

Os­cil­lat­ing be­tween re­spectable Sun­day night TV adap­ta­tion – much of the ac­tion takes place in the same street set – and full-blown faux- Gothic, the pic­ture fails to make the best use of some first-class per­for­mances as it cakes the source ma­te­rial in un­sea­soned aspic.

Turn­ing up as an un­scrupu­lous in­ter­loper in a lit­er­ary adap­ta­tion for the sec­ond time this week – heed the su­pe­rior The Two Faces of Jan­uary – Os­car Isaac is the sex­u­al­is­ing force who dis­rupts the life of the tit­u­lar or­phan. Hav­ing been mar­ried off to a use­less cousin ( Fel­ton), the neu­rotic Thérèse (Ol­son) finds her­self shut up with her snob­bish aunt (Jes­sica Lange) in an un­pre­pos­sess­ing Paris drap­ery shop. Isaac is soon press­ing her into cor­ners while mak­ing mis­chief with her pet­ti­coats. Then some­thing very dra­matic hap­pens in a row boat.

Fel­ton rather over­does the mil­que­toast act and ends up turn­ing his char­ac­ter into Wal­ter Softy from the Beano. The other three leads are ex­cel­lent. The porce­lain Ol­son is be­liev­ably crazy with lust. Isaac continues to be one of our era’s best heels. Lange has suf­fi­cient dra­matic meat to wres­tle even this quaside­monic role into sub­mis­sion.

Un­for­tu­nately the ram­pag­ing, gar­licky melo­drama of the last act proves too much for the film­mak­ers to han­dle and we end up drenched in over­cooked ab­sur­dity.

It is, per­haps, sig­nif­i­cant that the most suc­cess­ful re­cent adap­ta­tion of the novel, Park Chan-wook’s Thirst, re-imag­ined the tale as a vam­pire chiller. Few other gen­res could con­tain this level of pas­sion­ate mad­ness.

El­iz­a­beth Olsen: be­liev­ably crazy

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