From its first frame onward, In Secret is a Gothic, hypnotic, often sexy, and at times disturbing story of people who, either by choice or because of fate, become imprisoned within negative circumstances and spin further and further out of control. The film opens with a wayward father leaving his daughter, heroine Therese, at the isolated home of his sister and her ill son, Camille. The aunt is portrayed by Jessica Lange with the regal and steely quality in which she now specializes and uses to steal scenes on the television hit American Horror Story. Coming of age, Therese is forced to be at once best friend, guardian angel, and nurse to the wan Camille. Later, she is forced also to be his wife on the eve of the family's move to Paris. There, they purchase an out-of-the-way shop and reunite with a friendly past acquaintance, Laurent. Artistic, confident, and masculine, Laurent is the antithesis of her husband. He and the previously cold and sequestered Therese become clandestine lovers and plot to stay together at any price.
In Secret possesses every ingredient of a top-notch costume drama and erotic suspense film. The performances are engaging and vibrant, which is no surprise since leads Elizabeth Olsen (as the adult Therese) and Oscar Isaac (as Laurent) are among the brightest talents of their generation. She in particular perfectly captures the dynamic of her character, a woman who reveals menacing dimensions of her character out of justified desperation to escape her static domestic existence. Each note of anger, desire, fear, and guilt rings true. This authenticity reveals and animates a century-old story, scandalous in its day, for a jaded modern audience. The production itself is gorgeous in its cobwebs and shadows and stones and general grit, with Hungary and Serbia standing in well for 19th-century France. Call it seductive decay, never more so than during a delirious nocturnal visit to a slaughterhouse. And the plot is rich and told with theatrical flair, from the way the character arcs complicate our initial understanding of each player to a spectacular ending which is haunting and, in a macabre way, satisfying in its ghastly inevitability.