My Cousin Rachel, 2017.
Directed by Roger Michell.
Starring Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Iain Glen, Holliday Grainger, and Tim Barlow.
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.
Reimagining the 1951 adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel is no easy challenge, but with Roger Michell’s solid direction and a terrific performance from Rachel Weisz, it’s a tense and unusual thriller with many new themes embraced.
Philip (Claflin) is a naïve and immature young man who’s not particularly aware of women and the wider world. Raised by his cousin Ambrose (also played by Claflin in a nice piece of symmetry), Philip is dismayed to learn of his guardian’s passing and he begins to plot revenge on his new cousin Rachel (Weisz) who he thinks is responsible for his death. Upon meeting her this inexperienced young man becomes bewitched by her presence and it ultimately leads him down a dark path. From the outset the question is “Did she? Didn’t she? Who’s to blame?” and the answer is never fully given making it the type of story that you can ponder over for a long time.
Themes of sexual immaturity are at the forefront with Philip having never been in the presence of women (other than his best friend Louise played with gusto by Holliday Grainger). With the arrival of Rachel he is thrust into a new world and begins to develop an obsession over her and in turn his paranoia escalates. Claflin proves himself as the leading man and isn’t afraid to overplay the pathetic nature of Philip’s character. It’s a confident performance and something new from the young actor.
Ultimately this is Rachel Weisz’s show. She exudes mystery, confidence and sexuality; with just the slightest half-smile her motivations are made foggier and the way her personality flits from friendly and approachable to outraged and manipulative makes for an unexpected and intriguing watch. Her chemistry with Claflin is good and with the ambiguous ending in place it’s a great multi-layered performance from the actress.
Beautifully shot by Michell, My Cousin Rachel is visually delicious and an unusually dark thriller with a lot to say about gender and identity.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★