“I don’t believe in ghosts” declares Lily James, as her Mrs. de Winter sets off for a new life in Manderley. And yet this is a film undeniably haunted by the looming spectre of Hitchcock’s 1940 Best Picture-winning adaptation. Director Ben Wheatley creates a glossy, romantic world here, and yet a question hangs in the air throughout: why has this film been made?

As a standalone film, Rebecca would probably be considered ‘ok’, but as an adaptation of a classic novel which already has a much-loved silver screen version, it all just feels completely unnecessary. The tone in general is misjudged throughout, whether it be in regards to the newlywed couple’s relationship, the costume design, or the incredible lack of tension felt in what is a pretty heavy-going second half. Everything is layered on so thick and with so much gloss that, while visually stunning, the real Gothic spirit of Rebecca is lost somewhere between James and Armie Hammer’s distinct lack of chemistry and that yellow suit.

James gives a worthy performance, but unfortunately she and Hammer are woefully miscast here. James’ Mrs. de Winter feels incredibly flat, constantly whimpering throughout and lacking any of the awkwardness crucial to the character. Not only is Hammer’s Maxim de Winter about 15 years too young, but where is the man who has escaped to Europe to mourn his recently-deceased wife? Maxim here is on the charm-offensive, and hints at his darker back story appear drastically out of place. The romance here is a true whirlwind, full of excitement and lacks any of the unease and uncertainty of its predecessors.

Rebecca feels like a real missed opportunity for Wheatley. Where he could’ve dialled up the Gothic drama levels, he’s instead gone for saturated colours to mask lacklustre performances and an undeniable feeling of mediocrity. 



CAST: Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristin Scott Thomas

DIRECTOR: Ben Wheatley

WRITERS: Jane Goldman, Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse (screenplay by); Daphne Du Maurier (based on the novel by)

SYNOPSIS: A young newlywed arrives at her husband’s imposing family estate on a windswept English coast and finds herself battling the shadow of his first wife, Rebecca, whose legacy lives on in the house long after her death.