My Cousin Rachel

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

My Cousin Rachel
"This should carry you to Christmas on a wave of nostalgia... but it doesn't."

Daphne Du Maurier was such a wonderful writer it is easy to overlook the simplicity of her plots. You say, better this than crash/bash/flash. I say, better this than incomprehension. Thrillers require the opportunity to ride a mystery all the way to the end without interference, or a blaze of herrings.

My Cousin Rachel is slow and deadly. It poses the questions - did she, was she, will she?

Copy picture

Did she what? Was she what?

The lady has many interpretations, corrupted by gossip, sweetened by romance. A manipulator? A murderess? A lover?

Who knows? Who ever knows?

Philip (Sam Claflin) is an orphan, adopted and brought up in Cornwall. The house is vast, the outdoor servants many, His guardian goes off to Italy, marries and sends back letters saying how happy he is. Later, not much later, the letters darken. He blames his wife, Rachel (Rachel Weisz). She's a witch, he writes, she's poisoning me.

He dies. Philip goes to Italy. The place is a mess. He learns nothing. The Italian lawyer is flamboyant, more like a cockatoo than a solicitor. Everything is odd. Philip feels out of his depth, out of his comfort, in a city, lost. He yearns for home.

On returning he discovers that Rachel is coming to stay. To live? He hates her because she killed his guardian, or so he believes. He is naive. He knows nothing of women. He thinks he knows everything. He's a fool.

With her charm and beauty she seduces him. Is that right? He falls and then falls further until infatuation becomes a distorted form of love and he doesn't know what he is doing except he is afraid of his feelings and yet exalted by them. He wants to give her the money, the jewels, himself, everything, for always.

She says, "You are a glorious puppy looking for its mother." Smiling.

What will happen now? You know what will happen now. It's obvious. She has the dosh, she has... Or is it? The mystery multiplies.

The film is rich with those things that put England on a postcard, the look of the landscape, the dignity of the working man, the isolation of the aristocracy, the dappled sun in a bluebell wood, the white stallion galloping, bad sex, white cliffs, soft tears.

This should carry you to Christmas on a wave of nostalgia, summer heartache, the hay barn, the sun on fire, the end of day, linen sheets, hope in the kiss, but it doesn't. The cinematography is never less than lovely, the sets carefully arranged, even the farmyard has the artificiality of painterly perfection. The yokels and workers perform like townies on a weekend away. The feel of it resembles the recent remake of Far From The Madding Crowd where rural reality was less than convincing.

Weisz is at half speed and Claflin has to play stupid. It's not easy for either of them. Rachel has a mysterious beauty and Philip hangs about like a lazy goose. You want to believe in her and then you want to betray her. You want to like him but you can't because he's an idiot.

Where to go? Where to hide? Writer/director Roger Michell loves the close up as much as the Cornish countryside. Somewhere between the two tension slackens and there's little left but the memory of what might have been.

Reviewed on: 08 Jun 2017
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A young Englishman plots revenge against his mysterious, beautiful cousin, believing that she murdered his guardian. But his feelings become complicated as he finds himself falling under the beguiling spell of her charms.

Director: Roger Michell

Writer: Roger Michell, based on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier,

Starring: Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Iain Glen, Holliday Grainger, Poppy Lee Friar, Andrew Knott, Andrew Havill, Vicki Pepperdine, Katherine Pearce, Louis Suc, Harrie Hayes, Attila G. Kerekes, Austin Taylor, Tristram Davies, Stuart Davidson

Year: 2017

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK, US

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