Would be better kept ‘In Secret’

Jessica Lange as Madame Raquin and Tom Felton as Camille. PA Photo/Sony UK.
Jessica Lange as Madame Raquin and Tom Felton as Camille. PA Photo/Sony UK.

Bosoms heave, hoop skirts flutter and britches swell in Charlie Stratton’s torrid tale of forbidden passion based on Emile Zola’s scandalous 1867 novel, ‘Therese Raquin’.

For all the lustful glances and whimpering surrenders to carnal desire on-screen, audiences should remain unflustered.

The only thing ‘In Secret’ is likely to arouse is an occasional snort of derision.

This is an artfully composed tableaux of sexual repression and murderous intent in which lovers conduct dangerous liaisons within ear-shot of relatives but are never overheard.

Nothing is left to nuance in Stratton’s overwrought screenplay and composer Gabriel Yared adopts a similarly heavy-handed approach with his score.

As a child, Therese (Lily Laight) is abandoned by her father (Matt Devere) in the care of a domineering aunt, Madame Raquin (Jessica Lange), and sickly cousin, Camille (Dimitrije Bogdanov).

The boy’s persistent coughing keeps Therese awake at night so by the time she turns 21, Therese (now played by Elizabeth Olsen) is wearily devoted to Camille (Tom Felton) as a nursemaid.

Madame Raquin orchestrates a marriage between the cousins and the dysfunctional family transplants to Paris where Camille secures employment as a clerk and Therese serves behind the counter of Madame’s shop.

Only Lange fully enters into the spirit of Zola’s source text, delivering a commanding performance that holds our attention, even when her grief-stricken harridan is recovering from a medical emergency that renders her mute.