A young Englishman plots revenge against his late cousin’s mysterious, beautiful wife, believing her responsible for his death. But his feelings become complicated as he finds himself falling under the beguiling spell of her charms.
The novels of Daphne du Maurier have spawned many successful film adaptations over the years, most notably the Hitchcock films ‘Rebecca’ and ‘The Birds’, and the latest, ‘My Cousin Rachel’ was actually adapted back in 1952 with Richard Burton and Olivia de Havilland in the leading roles (which I haven’t seen). The film is set in Cornwall and centres on a young man who falls in love with the wife of his older cousin, despite suspecting her of playing a part in his death, with the leading roles on this occasion taken up by Sam Claflin and Rachel Weisz. It’s a dark tale with gothic undertones and the film’s narrative hinges on the central question of whether Rachel murdered her husband or not, and more importantly, what her true motives are.
I must say I felt a little bit disappointed in the film given the promising material and an intriguing trailer, although there are certainly many things to recommend. Rachel Weisz is utterly magnetic in the central role and her performance helps to keep the central mystery ticking over in spite of the narrative working against it. Sam Claflin also delivers a strong performance as the naïve and conflicted Philip, and I felt he did well to fight against a script that portrays him as almost unbelievably moronic, even allowing for his limited experiences with the opposite sex. The film was shot in England and Italy in Spring 2016 and it looks absolutely gorgeous with some beautiful coastal cinematography adding some light to a film that often operates in the shadows and darkness of the stately home where Philip abides. It’s the central mystery that I was most disappointed in, as it didn’t fully invest me and I felt the narrative unfolded in a rather predictable manner, relying too much on the performances to do the heavy lifting.
‘My Cousin Rachel’ is a handsomely crafted period mystery featuring a wonderfully duplicitous lead performance from Rachel Weisz, but I felt it failed to meet its full potential and wasn’t as gripping as I’d hoped it would be.
Directed By: Roger Michell
Starring: Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Holliday Grainger, Iain Glen and Andrew Knott