Think of "Therese Raquin," the Emile Zola novel that is the inspiration for "In Secret," as the original film noir. It has an illicit love affair, a murder, and the guilt and fear of discovery that comes with it.
Filmmaker Charlie Stratton, working from Neal Bell's stage adaptation of the book, delivers a moody, melodramatic and somewhat overwrought version of the tale, sort of a "Postman Always Rings Twice" set in 19th century Paris.
Elizabeth Olsen is Therese, a tragically illegitimate child whose father leaves her with distant relatives after her mother dies. Therese grows up forlorn, unloved and treated poorly by her domineering aunt, Madame Raquin (Jessica Lange). Things get worse when Therese is forced to marry her pampered and sickly cousin Camille (Tom Felton).
They move from the country to Paris, where Camille re-connects with childhood pal Laurent (Oscar Isaac of "Inside Llewyn Davis"), a smoldering rake of an artist who awakens the woman in Therese.
And as the lovers get comfortable keeping their affair a secret, the idea comes to them that Camille is just in the way and they should kill him.
"In Secret" is a genuine bodice ripper of a thriller, with the requisite heavy breathing that comes after said bodice is ripped. The sex isn't explicit, but Olsen and Isaac suggest the heat that gives this doomed affair its momentum. Olsen's version of Therese is a lovelorn Madame Bovary who take things further than Flaubert's Emma Bovary ever would.
Lange makes a delicious, fearsome hysteric, and former "Harry Potter" foil Felton is properly foppish as Camille.
Director Stratton does well with shifting our sympathies from Therese to Camille to Madame Raquin over the course of the tale. Unfortunately, there's no way to backdate this original noir to keep us from seeing where it's going long before it gets there. We've seen too many variations of this story, and ultimately the overwrought 19th century melodramatic conventions of the plot creak like the springs and joints of a worn-out stagecoach.
PLOT Illicit love leads to murder in this retelling of "Therese Raquin."
RATING R (for sexual content and brief violent images)
CAST Elizabeth Olsen, Oscar Isaac, Jessica Lange, Tom Felton
BOTTOM LINE An affair you're not likely to remember.