February 21, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: 'In Secret' takes romantic risks with passion, tragedy, lust and deceit

Elizabeth Olsen and Tom Felton are an ill-suited couple in 'In Secret.' (Phil Bra)

The problem and the glory of high romantic drama is it can be so dramatic.

For some the pitch can be too shrill, especially when the story itself is slight. Others, though, get swept away in the emotion of it all.

For those who want sweeping, “In Secret” offers all the essentials — unbridled passion, deceit, fate so unkind, a classically creepy mother and grand tragedy. The film is based on a 19th century novel by Emile Zola and feels like it.

Therese (Elizabeth Olsen) is taken as a young girl to live with her father’s sister, Madame Raquin (Jessica Lange), and her sickly son, Camille (Tom Felton). She grows up sharing a bed with the constantly coughing boy and caring for him, and when the children are grown, Madame Raquin informs Therese she’ll be marrying Camille and continuing to care for him.

The three move to Paris, where Madame Raquin opens a shop and Camille goes to work in an office. One night, he brings home a co-worker, Laurent (Oscar Isaac), and the shy, submissive, thoroughly miserable Therese feels a spark inside.

Soon enough, Therese and Laurent are involved in a full-on, bosom-heaving love affair, and Therese is more aware than ever of what a prison her marriage is. Neither Laurent nor Therese has any money, so running off is not an option and neither is divorce. Filled with lust and the promise of a better future, their thoughts take a dark turn.

Lange is everyone’s nightmare matriarch. And Olsen and Isaac bring both the fire and the dread. But the surprise is Felton, a “Harry Potter” veteran dressing down to play the weak Camille. He’s a fool who doesn’t know it, swept away by someone else’s romance.

'In Secret'

GRADE: B-

Rated R for sexual content and brief violent images

Running time: 101 minutes

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