Film review – My Cousin Rachel (PG):
If casting maketh the film then Rachel Weisz’s deliciously mesmerising portrayal of her namesake makes this a worthy interpretation of Daphne Du Maurier’s novel.
The 1952 version, starring Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton, received four Oscar nominations. Throughout this adaptation Weisz commands the title role in a manner required to make the plot and its heavy dose of innuendo sufficiently convincing.
She toys with the viewer as much as she teases her hopelessly infatuated Cornish host Philip Ashley, played by Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games).
Philip is recently orphaned following the death of his adored guardian Ambrose who has married his cousin Rachel during a trip to Italy.
When Ambrose dies Philip believes her to be responsible and expects to confront her when she pays a visit to the family estate. Instead he is instantly smitten and his behaviour becomes increasingly irrational.
As the plot unfolds he harbours suspicions of a conniving woman secretly conspiring with her Italian “good friend”, either to rob him of his inheritance from Ambrose, or even kill him.
His search for the truth weaves a pattern of mystery around his unfettered desire for the enigmatically seductive visitor who at once entices and rejects him.
While his occasional rage sometimes seems a little overdone, Claflin captures the contradictory emotions of a callow youth and angry young man that makes Philip gullible to his seemingly manipulative cousin, and vulnerable to her charms.
The subtlety of Weisz’s performance perfectly achieves the balance of innocent temptress and widowed victim. She is polite and entertaining, yet fiery and assertive. Is she in self-denial about her feelings? Or deviously plotting against her love-struck admirer? Her relationship with Philip is equally ambiguous, from flirtatiously passionate to obligingly indifferent.
The mystery takes as many turns as the glorious Cornish coastline captured beautifully by Mike Eley’s cinematography which makes this a visual treat aside from the storyline.
Director Roger Michell (Notting Hill) builds the tension amid the tranquility of the story’s Hardyesque setting and maintains the mystery throughout its twists and turn.
Although the ending is a variation on Du Maurier’s 1951 novel, it reaches much the same conclusion.
Entertainment value: 4/5