Who’s afraid of Thérèse Raquin?
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