In Secret

Directed By: Charlie Stratton

Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Felton, Oscar Isaac, and Jessica Lange

I've shied away from indie cinema for the last several weeks or so.  Things typically remain quiet on this front during the awards season.  Sure, I've missed a couple of foreign flicks such as Gloria and Like Father, Like Son, but indie theaters have primarily been screening awards darlings like Her, Dallas Buyers Club, and 12 Years a Slave.  Given that the awards season is coming to an end next weekend with the Oscars, it's about time for me to get back into the swing of things and get 2014 started on this front.  This weekend, we have Charlie Stratton's erotic thriller In Secret, based on Émile Zola's novel Thérèse Raquin.

After her mother's passing, a young Thérèse Raquin (Elizabeth Olsen) is abandoned by her father.  She is sent to live with her aunt, Madame Raquin (Jessica Lange) and her ailing cousin Camille (Tom Felton).  Living out in the countryside, she soon learns that life with her aunt and cousin will be a humble one.  Forced to care for Camille, she becomes a guardian angel of sorts for her sick cousin.  She is frequently instructed to not make a sound and to keep quiet.  That's exactly what she does throughout her youth.  When Thérèse and Camille are all grown up, the two cousins get married and move to Paris per Madame Raquin’s wishes.

Camille finds an office job in Paris, while Madame Raquin and Thérèse run a local shop.  With this quiet little life, the beautiful Thérèse finds herself bored, unhappy, and sexually repressed.  This remains the case until Camille's friend and colleague Laurent (Oscar Isaac) arrives.  An alluring painter who knows how to brush a woman just the right way, Laurent quickly makes an impression on Thérèse and awakens her dormant sex drive.  Soon, the two find themselves in a secret affair.  Luckily for Thérèse, she's learned quite a bit from her aunt.  In her moments of sheer ecstasy, Thérèse doesn't make a sound and keeps perfectly quiet.  As this initially harmless affair proceeds, love and tragedy follow.

Since it's based on Émile Zola's Thérèse Raquin, there's not much originality or creativity that can be demanded of In Secret with regard to the plot.  Even if you haven't read Zola's novel, you're definitely familiar with the storyline of lovers doing terrible things to be together and then regretting it.  There's nothing new about it.  That being said, we expect that Charlie Stratton and his cast compensate for this in their interpretation of this very familiar tale.  In this respect, they simply do not.  In Secret is certainly an enjoyable thriller with solid performances, but there's nothing special about it that pushes it to greatness.

Even though In Secret doesn't exactly stretch our collective imagination, the actors do find the right recipe for solidly entertaining performances.  For her part as our lead Thérèse Raquin, Elizabeth Olsen brings a pulsating sensuality that can be felt throughout the early part of the movie, even when her character is sexually repressed.  In the second half of the film, Olsen transitions into a darker character haunted by guilt, devoid of that sexual spark that highlighted the earlier half of her performance.  For his part as her lover Laurent, Oscar Isaac gives a rather dark performance as well.  Unlike Olsen, he remains unaffected by guilt.  The Inside Llewyn Davis star is just devilish on screen.  In their roles as Camille and Madame Raquin, Tom Felton and Jessica Lange give us characters we can love to hate.  Both their characters are clearly strong-willed and unendingly self-serving.

In Secret doesn't push the bounds of indie cinema, but it is still an enjoyable thriller marked by a dark sensuality.  You may need a couple of glasses of Viognier for this one.  In Secret gets a strong 0.06% rating.