Novel adaptations are tricky, particularly when it comes to unreliable narrators – thankfully My Cousin Rachel avoids losing the essence of Daphne Du Maurier’s novel, playing with perspective behind and in front of the camera to ensure that no clue is left unquestioned. While the tale that unfolds might seem obvious to some, spellbinding cinematography and two brilliant performances elevate this humdrum thriller into something more intriguing.
Weisz and Claflin ooze chemistry, as they move back and forth between loving and loathing each other. In the lead role, Claflin nails the uneasy nature of Philip’s shifting feelings towards Rachel – his new mother, friend, lover… or foe? Claflin clearly has more potential than the teen heartthrob roles he’s taken to date, even holding his own against Rachel Weisz – who is as fantastic as you’d expect. Her indomitable energy is put to good use here, fuelling My Cousin Rachel’s feminist undercurrent as unexpected shifts in the plot play on ideas of the period and even the period drama as a genre.
Director Roger Michell and cinematographer Mike Eley weave the film’s maudlin and uneasy tone into every layer of the design; breathtaking visuals make great use of Rachel’s Cornish and Florentine settings. Unfortunately, Rael Jones’ score becomes a tad overbearing, and the film begins to drag as the plot’s weighty and ponderous nature threatens to snuff out the rising tensions between Rachel and Philip.
A borderline anticlimactic end doesn’t quite deliver on the impressive constructions of My Cousin Rachel‘s first two acts, but a stirring epilogue provides an effective capstone to this nuanced thriller. Magnetic performances from the film’s leads bring two fascinating characters to life in this worthy adaptation of Du Maurier’s classic novel.
CAST: Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Iain Glen
DIRECTOR: Roger Michell
WRITERS: Roger Michell (screenplay), Daphne Du Maurier (novel)
SYNOPSIS: 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.