Friday, Aug 1, 2014 10:26 pm est

Actors impress in tragic love story ‘In Secret’

Posted on February 19, 2014 | by Laura Wolford

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A love story does not usually involve the plotting of a main character’s death so other characters can live happily together. However, Charlie Stratton’s “In Secret” does, but despite these elements, the film manages to retain the sense of an epic love saga through striking performances, delicate plot twists and an extremely captivating story.

“Secret,” in theaters Feb. 21, is based on Emile Zola’s 1867 novel “Thérèse Raquin.” The movie tells the story of the young, sexually-repressed Thérèse (Elizabeth Olsen). Her overbearing aunt Madame Raquin (Jessica Lange) has arranged for her to marry her sickly cousin Camille (Tom Felton).

When the family moves to Paris, Thérèse’s life remains dull until she meets Laurent (Oscar Isaac), a childhood friend of Camille’s. Laurent and Thérèse soon discover a sexual tension between them that cannot be suppressed. The lovers do everything in their power to be together, even when it means bringing harm to their loved ones.

This story is brought to life by the magnetic presence of the actors. Indie queen Olsen shines as Thérèse, communicating a persistent yet restrained lust for life and love. While Felton’s sniveling man-child is easy to dislike, the actor compels the audience to pity his character’s inability to express real passion.

However, Laurent has no problem showing passion. Isaac grounds his performance of this devil-may-care role in the shadow of a love that the members of the audience can feel themselves. Lange’s presence is felt throughout the film. Her incredible talent showcases itself in her ability to command the screen, even when her character remains silent.

The film is carried along by the surprisingly intoxicating love between Laurent and Thérèse, but even more shocking is the pity the audience feels for Camille. Rather than supporting the star-crossed lovers, viewers watching “Secret” hesitate to accept Thérèse’s relationship with Laurent.

This uncertainty is displayed in the portrayal of Thérèse. Camille does his best to woo Thérèse, but he does not court his fiancee in the sensual way she desires. Thérèse craves passion in her life and decides that only a relationship with the brooding Laurent can satisfy that craving.

Laurent and Thérèse’s relationship grounds the film in a believable reality as the couple discovers the sensual desires of forbidden romance. Olsen and Isaac execute these trysts with the excitement of a first love as they foreshadow their characters’ future adventures together.

With all of its tense romantic politics, “In Secret” does not have a happy ending. The audience will not leave convinced of the beauty in risking everything for love. Yet the resolution still feels justified, signifying that a narrative does not need a cliche ending to make viewers feel a sense of wholeness.

A version of this article appeared in the Feb. 19 print edition. Laura Wolford is a staff writer. Email her at


  • John Francis Fox

    I want to thank Laura Wolford for her insightful review of “In Secret.” You might like to know about two other adaptations of “Therese Raquin.” There was a British miniseries starring Kate Nelligan and co-starring Mona Washbourne as Camille’s mother. There was also a French version called “The Adulteress” which was reset in post World War II France, and starred Simone Signoret as Therese.

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Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

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News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

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Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

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