Featured DVD Review: In Secret
In Secret is a film based on the novel Thérèse Raquin, which was written nearly 150 years ago. The novel has been adopted into a few theatrical releases, a few TV movies, a few TV mini-series, etc. over the years, but it never really became something that entered the mainstream awareness like Pride and Prejudice did. For instance, this version opened well below the Mendoza Line before quickly disappearing from theaters. Is this film as bad as its box office numbers would indicate? Or would it have thrived had it opened in just a few theaters and expanded with its word-of-mouth?
The film begins with a young Therese being brought to her Aunt, Madame Raquin, by her father. Her mother recently passed away and her father doesn't know what to do with her, so she's being left here by her father with the promise that he will return soon. Clearly this is a promise he will break. Madame Raquin isn't a bad mother to Therese, but she is harsh and dotes on her own son, Camille, who is quite sick.
As they grow up, Therese becomes like a live-in nurse for Camille, but Therese wants more passion in her life, and as she lives a very sheltered existence with no outside socializing, there are little options for her and Camille isn't a passionate person regardless. When Madame Raquin learns Therese's father died in a marine disaster, she offers to help Therese survive on her father's small pension. Shortly after that, Camille gets a job as an office clerk in Paris and the family has to move there. But first, Camille and Therese are to wed. It's not something Therese is super excited with, but she has little choice.
Once in Paris, Camille settles into his mindless job, Madame Raquin has her friends she plays dominoes with, but Therese has little social life. That changes when Camille brings home Laurent LeClaire, who used to live in the same small village and who was a friend of Camille. Camille invited him to stay for dinner and dominoes afterward. All of the guests are enthralled by his charm, but when Therese and Laurent look each other in the eyes, there's an instant spark. It is a spark that she doesn't have with Camille. The feelings are mutual and it isn't long before the pair are in a torrid love affair, one that can only end poorly.
The hardest films to review are the ones best described as competent. In Secret certainly fits into this category. There's nothing truly awful about this movie, but nothing about it rises above average, so there's so little to say. The script is merely good. It isn't great and given the number of classic period pieces that have come out over the years, it really needs to be great to stand out. Part of the problem is how times have changed since the book was first written. What was scandalous back in the 1850s, a woman who has sexual needs, comes across as silly now. There is a scene early on where Therese... ummm... explores her sexuality while spying on a shirtless neighbor. (I know what you are probably thinking, but you are wrong. It is much sillier in the movie.) Likewise, the basic plot, a married person cheating on their spouse and conspiring with their lover to kill their spouse, was equally scandalous when the book first came out, but now has become cliché. Because the story hasn't exactly aged well, the execution has to be excellent for the film to work, and like I said, here the execution was good, but little more.
In Secret is neither truly good nor is it truly bad. It sits somewhere in the middle. The DVD isn't devoid of extras, but there isn't enough replay value to to be worth picking up. If you like the original novel, or period pieces in general, then it might be worth a rental.
- Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Date posted: 2014-05-18