Sourced from the 1951 novel by Daphne du Maurier and adapted to the screen by director Roger Mitchell. My Cousin Rachel is a period piece with a very dark side. The Mitchell film is the second adaptation of the material following the 1952 version with Olivia de Havilland in the role of Rachel and Richard Burton's debut as Philip. Sam Claflin is Philip this time an orphan adopted by his older cousin Ambrose (also played by Clafin). The narrative makes a specific point to mention that Philip has grown up with no feminine influence unless you count the female dogs on the Cornwall estate. His benefactor heads south to Florence for his health and to escape the cold weather where he meets and falls in love with his cousin Rachel (Rachel Weitz).
Letters come back to Cornwall expressing Ambrose joy then the correspondence turns to terror and dread as the benefactor speaks of a meddling Italian Rainaldi (Pierfrancesco Favino) and the real thought that his new wife was trying to poison him. Philip goes to Florence to investigate confronts the Italian but is too late.
Back in Cornwall word comes that the widow Ambrose will visit the estate. Philip is angry, wants nothing to do with her blaming her for his parental figures death. However, upon her arrival the widow’s feminine charms enchant the local community especially Philip as he bends to Rachel’s every desire both spoken and unspoken.
Rael Jones’ score underpins the piece. It’s the vehicle that builds the tension as all of Rachel’s desires are answers then Philip falls ill being spoon fed the widow’s special herb tea that may be hurting more than helping. The script is wonderfully vague with character’s shifting from victim to villain with each turn of the page.
Rachel Weisz despite not appearing for the first 20 minutes of the film commands the screen as the widow. She uses glances, dialogue, smiles, sophistication and highly tuned nonverbal skills to dominate the locals who have never seen anyone like her. Sam Claflin expands his Hunger Games chops in a dual role of Ambrose / Philips. He flips easily between lovely boy and Master of the estate as he slips further into paranoia wondering if events in Florence are repeating themselves in Cornwall. Holliday Grainer is strong as the quick witted Louise. Daughter of Philips godfather she has had unreturned feelings for Phillip for years. She helps him to figure out the Rachel question and seems to be the only person that does not fall under her spell.
My Cousin Rachel is a historical psychological thriller. The characters are complex backed by a story that features the right sprinkling of twists and turns. Rachel Weisz thrives in the perceived villain role. The costume and set design teams also play a part setting the tone for an enjoyable movie going experience that I can recommend.
*** ½ Out of 4.
My Cousin Rachel | Roger Michell | UK / USA | 2017 | 106 Minutes.
Tags; Orphan, Cornwall, Florence, Cousin, Letters, Brain Tumour, Guardian, Widow, Tisane, Will, Horses, Carriage, Trail.