Stars: Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Felton, Jessica Lange, and Oscar Isaac
Where do I start? Reviewing this melodramatic movie that leaves you dead at the end (no pun intended), is going to be a task.
I came across this film after surfing Amazon searching for period movies or television series that I have not watched. In Secret came up, so I put it on my list to tune in. After paying the $3.99 to stream it on Amazon, I can honestly classify it as the most depressing film I have seen in a long time. The story is apparently based on a story by the name of Thérèse Raquin, written in 1867 by Emile Zola.
In short, the movie is about a young girl, who after her mother dies, is placed with her aunt and her sick, coughing cousin. Jessica Lange plays a controlling mother (Madame Raquin), who orchestrates Therese’s life at every turn. Her father passes away, and Therese is left with a small annuity. No doubt for her own financial gain, she insists that Therese marry her cousin. Unfortunately, he is not appealing in personality or looks, while she on the other hand is attracted to handsome men and deals with an uncontrollable sex drive.
When they relocate from the country to Paris, down a dark and dingy street to open a shop, Therese meets Laurent, a friend of the family. It doesn’t take long for the two of them to fall into a lust-driven, sexual relationship that borders on the ridiculous as they meet in secret. Her domineering aunt has no idea that while she is tending the store below, her niece is copulating like a nymphomaniac upstairs in the room she shares with her son. Though you are led to believe it is love between the two, I frankly thought it bordered on physical obsession. Her lover knows how to control her need for him by pleasuring her at every turn, just as well as her aunt who manipulates her to do her bidding.
As far as Therese’s husband, played by Tom Felton, he is a boring and idiotic man, and a mama’s boy. His relationship with his mother is frankly as sickly as his health (cough, cough), as his mother dominates and coddles him into adulthood.
Laurent, as sexually driven as Therese, wants her all to himself. He suggests that they orchestrate an accident to do away with her husband. After all, accidents happen every day. Therese is hesitant to carry out the plan, but Laurent takes it to the end when the three of them go boating. He pushes her husband overboard, beats him with a paddle, and they watch him drown. Of course, they are dragged back to shore feigning a terrible boating accident wherein he loses his life. His body is recovered, buried, and no one is the wiser, except for one family friend who has her suspicions.
Of course, after the murder and time passes, Laurent and Therese marry and live together with Madame Raquin at the shop. Their relationship turns sour very quickly, as guilt for murdering Camille and their debase personalities come to the forefront. In the meantime, Madame Raquin has a stroke, no doubt brought on by her excessive grief over her son’s death, and is left unable to move or speak. As she is confined to a wheelchair, she discovers through their yelling fights with one another that they murdered her son.
Well, where does this leave this sordid tale of dysfunctional family, adultery, lust, and whatever else you want to term it? It comes to an end where Therese and Laurent grow to hate each other so much they plot each other’s demise. In the end, they both go mad as a hatter, and commit suicide in front of Madame Raquin, who finally obtains justice for her son’s murder. The scene is no Romeo and Juliet moment, believe me. Instead, it is a sad commentary to two selfish people who committed a senseless murder that leads to no happy ending.
As far as performances, Jessica Lange, I thought carried the insatiable grief about her son’s death to a psychotic level. Whether it was the intention of her performance to do so because of the script, I have no idea. However, I thought it felt excessive. Elizabeth Olsen’s portrayal, as well as Oscar Isaac’s, as the colliding lovers (definitely not star-crossed lovers), were well done conveying the characters’ crazy drive for sex and ultimate demise due to guilt that borders on lunacy.
The setting overall, especially in Paris, is very dark and gloomy, which frankly mirrors the story. The costumes were mid-Victorian era and dull in color for the most part.
If you like depressing, dark, and dramatic period movies that leave you feeling uninspired, this one is for you.