After their father has died it is left to two very different daughters to look after their father's pretty yet monstrous young wife. With on daughter shunning all responsibility it is left to the other to put her life on hold in order to carry out her father's wish.
When their Daddy snuffs it in his ancestral cottage, it's left to nice daughter Stevenson and nasty daughter Wilton to look after his Alcoholic Young Widow From Hell (Whalley-Kilmer). Inevitably, nasty daughter shuffles this responsibility off on to her angelic sibling whose graphic design business, long-term relationship with Pearson and life in general are consequently ruined.
Adapted by David Hare from his own successful stage play, this falls foul of the familiar problem that afflicts almost all theatre fare in the transition from stage to screen: what may work well on the boards doesn't necessarily make great cinema. Hare, as usual, takes on some big issues, with many moral questions asked, and the instinct for power and the struggle for virtue examined, but the end result makes for uninspired viewing. Stevenson, tired though we may be of watching it, does grief and goodness better than most, but it's Wilton who comes across best of all, as a veritable pressure-cooker of simmering rage. Interestingly, she is the only survivor of the play's original cast, and yet they all look as though they would be more at home on stage than up there onscreen five times larger than life.
First-time director Davies, himself a theatre veteran, does his best to dispel the strong whiff of grease-paint, aided by Ian Wilson's adept photography, and the portrait of virtue destroyed is convincingly conveyed, but this is a relentless, humourless movie and one that ultimately fails to move.
The Secret Rapture was originally a play and you can't help but feel it should have stayed that way. This transition would probably have been more successful had the same director not conducted both play and film. Wilton gives the best performance as the sister who shirks all responsibility whilst Stevenson is suitably depressed.