Film Review: My Cousin Rachel

Writer-director Roger Michell’s My Cousin Rachel is a sumptuous mystery drama. The clandestine nature of the film is engaging throughout, aided by a dynamic performance from Rachel Weisz.

After his guardian Ambose dies, Philip plots revenge against his wife Rachel. He believes Rachel is responsible for Ambrose’s death. Yet Philip’s feelings become muddled after he meets Rachel…

Based on the Daphne du Maurier novel, Roger Michell’s adaptation of My Cousin Rachel is a delightfully escapist affair. The period setting is lavish, and gives room for the gothic storyline to unfold.  The narrative is carefully woven, revealing only as much as is necessary at any given time. Rachel is given a significant introduction before she is seen on screen. This works well to give an impression of the character, from more than one viewpoint. When Rachel does arrive on screen for the first time, the necessary anticipation has been achieved.

Philip is an interesting protagonist in that he increasingly frustrates viewers by his attitude, yet still elicits sympathy.  Rachel meanwhile is an enigma; audiences will do their best to suss her out. A minor qualm is that it feels like almost every mention or action takes place to be referred to later in the film. Nonetheless, this is a minor issue, given that the narrative works well otherwise.

The broad landscapes are beautifully photographed by cinematographer Mike Eley. Lighting is used to a very effective degree in the interior scenes. The art direction is great in styling a lavish period film. Rachel Weisz delivers a strong performance as Rachel. She hits the right tone in being enigmatic and enchanting. Sam Claflin is well cast as Philip, whilst Holliday Grainger provides good support.

My Cousin Rachel is an entertaining adaptation of du Maurier’s novel. The film efficaciously enrobes a period drama with memorable gothic elements.

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