Adaptation of the classic novel brings us Rachel Weisz as Rachel, and Sam Claflin as Philip. A young man, raised by his cousin Ambrose comes home after school to find his cousin a sick man. Ambrose is sent to Italy to get some more sun and get better, while there he meets another cousin called Rachel. Suspicious minds are sent into over drive when Philip travels to Italy to find that his loving cousin Ambrose has died, but has Rachel poisoned the man she has married or has Ambrose’s sickness consumed him.
If you ask me at any point during the day or night, or when I’m off fighting demons in the third dimension, I would rather not watch these type of period dramas. My other half, far superior half, likes to watch the adaptations of Catherine Cookson’s books and I would prefer not to. The phrase it is grim up North was created for this woman’s books. They are extraordinary in the fact that there is not one joke or smile to be had while watching any of these long, long, dour films. So when this press show came up I begged and pleaded with my partner to swap jobs with me for the morning, but it seems I’m not allowed to do surgery, but I think that was just an excuse.
Anyway, I’m glad that we didn’t swap jobs that morning, My Cousin Rachel is a costume drama that I can get behind. First the production values are exceptionally high, from the level of the set dressings which changes from when there are just two men living in the house, to the decadence that arrives with Rachel. Then the costumes are spot on, from country to country to the different classes within the story. Then the performances, Rachel Weisz is outstanding, one of her finest performances ever. She walks the line between evil and goodness with a deft touch.
I’ve been a fan of hers since the first two Mummy films, she was a true feisty heroine that could hold her own with the boys, and that was refreshing. Here she has to have that slight acting ability to make you feel that she is walking both sides of the line but at the same time leaving you confused in the best way. Other period dramas should learn a few things from My Cousin Rachel. Sam, who we last saw in Their Finest Hour, proves once again that he is capable to being the leading man in a romantic role. I’d love to see him in something harder next time, not porn, but maybe Ted Bundy or something like that. He is capable of giving that edge, and embraces it a little here, so get moving with the darkness Sam.
My Cousin Rachel gives you a complete world and throws you from pillar to post in the belief that Rachel is good, and then in one more breath she’s the devil. That is a testament to the brilliance of the film making and the courage it takes to keep the audience on the edge of the seat. You can’t allow them at any point to either sit back in the seat or tip them over, if you do then you’ve lost them either way. The almost murder mystery suspense is held at a point and controlled with a steady hand.
If you don’t like period costume dramas then you may find hope here, but with little resolution offered at the end, and an obvious fate for Rachel, you’re going to either love this film or hate it, there really won’t be a middle ground. This is one period drama that I’d happily watch with my other half, probably the only one, and I’m afraid to let them know that as it means they’ll try sell me on something else too.
Director: Roger Michell
Writers: Daphne Du Maurier (novel), Roger Michell (adaptation)
Stars: Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Iain Glen