Filmmaker Charlie Stratton takes a rather obvious approach to Emile Zola's iconic 1867 novel Therese Raquin, ramping up the melodrama while drenching everything in shadowy doom and gloom. It's such a bleak film that it sometimes feels like a spoof, pushing every emotional story element to the breaking point. But the resilient premise still has something to say.
In deeply repressed 19th century French society, Therese (Elizabeth Olsen) is an orphan raised by her over-involved aunt (Jessica Lange), sharing a bed with her sickly cousin Camille (Tom Felton). When she comes of age, Therese is simply expected to marry Camille, after which all three move to Paris to open a shop. Soon Therese meets Camille's old pal Laurent (Oscar Isaac), who sparks her lust in ways the wheezy Camille never could. And as they begin a torrid affair, Therese and Laurent know that they can only be together after Camille is dead. So they hatch a nefarious plan, but life doesn't play out quite as they expect it to.
Writer-director Stratton makes everything so stylised that it can't help feeling stagey, with streets, sets and costumes that are relentlessly drab. The main colour scheme is dark greys and browns, and everything is swamped in murky shadows as the characters swap anguished glances. The actors do what they can with this. Olsen and Isaac manage to generate some sweaty chemistry, which transforms into something very different in the final act. Felton finds some humanity underneath Camille's obnoxious exterior. Lange merrily chomps the scenery as the glowering, over-reacting matriarch. And casting Matt Lucas, Mackenzie Crook and Shirley Henderson in key supporting roles can't help but add some unexpected comedy ("I have a touch of the vapours!").
Continue reading: In Secret Review
A fascinating true story becomes a deeply repressed movie in the hands of writer Morgan (The Iron Lady) and actor-director Fiennes. It looks and feels murky and dull, and because it's trying to keep everything under the surface never quite reveals anything about the characters or situations. What's left is the intriguing story itself, some strong acting and a lush attention to period detail.
It starts in the 1850s, as Charles Dickens (Fiennes) revels in his celebrity status, adored by fans as he produces the play The Frozen Deep with his rogue buddy Wilkie Collins (Hollander). Then Charles develops a crush on 18-year-old actress Nellie (Jones), who is encouraged by her mother (Scott Thomas) to pursue the affair. But as they fall in love, there's a problem: divorce is unthinkable in Victorian society, so Charles separates from his angry wife (Scanlan) and keeps his relationship with Nellie hidden. And 30 years later, Nellie is still haunted by the experience, even though she now has a family with her loving husband George (Burke).
Fiennes makes the odd decision not to age Nellie at all: Jones looks the same in 1850 as she does in 1880, so the scenes set three decades later don't quite make sense. And there's also the problem that the affair between Charles and Nellie feels like it lasted about two years, when in reality it was 13. These things leave us perplexed about pretty much everything on-screen, unable to engage with the characters or their emotions. It doesn't help that the relationship is clearly doomed from the start, so Fiennes and Jones can never generate any real chemistry or emotion. In fact, they seem barely able to stand each other. Much better are the feisty supporting turns from Hollander, Scanlan and especially Scott Thomas.
Continue reading: The Invisible Woman Review
At the height of his career, Charles Dickens finds himself embroiled in one of the biggest personal struggles of his life. While working on a stage play, he meets a beautiful young actress named Nelly Ternan who is in deep admiration of all his works. Fascinated by her personality and smitten by her beauty, he takes the time to make regular visits to her home in London - a secret that he is desperate to keep from his wife of 20 years Catherine Thomson. Though having a profound respect for Dickens, Nelly's mother makes it plain that she does not want their relationship to develop into something that could mar her reputation. However, Dickens is happy to suffer the shame of an unusual separation if it means he can be with his new lover forever, but just how damaging could it be to his career?
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Therese Raquin is a young woman living with her aunt and cousin Camille. One day Madame Raquin informs her that she and Camille are to be married after which they will settle in Paris. Though it was not a pairing of her choosing, Therese tries to attract some interest from her rather unpleasant cousin who appears to be shrugging away her every advance, even on their wedding night. In Paris, Camille meets his childhood friend Laurent, a painter, who they invite to stay. Intrigued, Therese soon finds herself engaging in an illicit and passionate affair with him behind her husband and aunt's back. As their relationship deepens, their yearning for one another becomes stronger and they began to plot a way to get Camille out of the picture which ends in his murder on a boat trip. Far from gaining peace, the couple find themselves racked with guilt and highly suspected by Madame Raquin.
'In Secret' is the tense romance thriller written and directed by Charlie Stratton ('Faux Baby'). It is based on the 1867 classic novel 'Therese Raquin' written by Emile Zola and is also the subject of a play by Neal Bell. It is set to be released in US theatres on February 21st 2014.
Charles Dickens may be famous for having written some of history's greatest stories, but his own life story is probably one of the most touching of all. During a major peak in his career, he finds himself madly in love with actress Nelly Ternan who deeply admires all his literary works. He takes regular trips to London to visit her despite already being married to Catherine Thomson for more than 20 years, and Nelly's mother Frances regularly voices her concerns about what the relationship could mean for her 18-year-old daughter's future. Despite all odds, Dickens is determined to spend the rest of his life with his new lover even if that means a scandalous separation from his wife. In a bid to lower the impact it might have on his career, he vows to keep his new relationship a secret from the public.
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John Kavanagh - Stars from Irish stage and TV at the Funeral of actress Susan Fitzgerald at the Three Patrons Church, Rathgar. Susan was the former wife of Gate Theatre director Michael Colgan. - Dublin, Ireland - Wednesday 11th September 2013
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