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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

In Secret movie review: do you promise not to tell?

In Secret green light

If O. Henry and Edgar Allan Poe collaborated on a love story, it might look something like this juicy bit of ironic gothic romance.
I’m “biast” (pro): love the cast

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

If O. Henry and Edgar Allan Poe collaborated on a love story, it might look something like this juicy bit of ironic gothic romance. It’s 1860s Paris, and Thérèse (Elizabeth Olsen: Godzilla) has been lumbered with her dull, sickly cousin, Camille (Tom Felton: Rise of the Planet of the Apes), in a loveless marriage forced on her by her aunt, Madame Raquin (Jessica Lange: The Vow), as a sort of demented payment for her having raised Thérèse after her father abandoned her when she was little. (That’s right: the cousin she’s married to is more like a brother. Ick.) Enter Camille’s friend Laurent (Oscar Isaac: Inside Llewyn Davis), who is handsome, artistically talented, and not a blood relation. The torrid affair Thérèse and Laurent embark upon is shot with sexy mystery by first-time writer-director Charlie Stratton: there’s barely any nudity, but there is — *fans self* — lots of sweaty impatience and emotional and physical desperation. Now, if only they could get Camille out of the way, they wouldn’t have to hide and pretend… In Secret is deliciously salacious in how it plays out its messy violent tragedy, which would seem to be a twist on the “let’s you and me kill my spouse” trope, except that this is based on a novel that’s a century and a half old — Émile Zola’s 1867 Thérèse Racquin — so why isn’t its wise truth reflected more often in pop culture? Fun performances from everyone — they all know this is glorious kitsch — make for a bodice-ripping good time, with a touch of steamy warning about why murder might not be the best sauce for romance.


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In Secret (2014)
US/Can release: Feb 21 2014
UK/Ire release: May 16 2014

MPAA: rated R for sexual content and brief violent images
BBFC: rated 15 (strong sex, moderate threat)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • Does it have steampunk?! (gets hit repeatedly for asking the wrong question)

  • That would have been awesome, but no.

    Has anyone done a steampunk bodice-ripper? If not, someone needs to.

  • Kinda think certain Hammer Horror movies – the Frankenstein ones – might have counted.

  • Hammer may have influenced steampunk, but those films aren’t very steampunky themselves. At least, I don’t recall the ones I’ve seen being so.

  • Oracle Mun

    The Magnificent Devices series comes close, but I prefer the Parasol Protectorate series. Now if only someone will adapt the latter for the screen….

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