Rated PG-13

106 Minutes

Released June 9

 

My Cousin Rachel is a masterpiece of psychological mystery. Much of the credit must go posthumously to the author of the novel, Dame Daphne du Maurier, who stands as one of the greatest writers ever of subtle intimate drama. Her novels lend themselves perfectly to the medium of film. Her father was an actor. Perhaps observing his theatrical performances imbued her with an ability to create vivid scenes and intricate mystery and suspense in her stories. My Cousin Rachel has twice been adapted for film. In 1952, Olivia de Havilland starred as “Rachel.” Du Maurier herself thought that the role was miscast, as the actress’s interpretation skewed too sweet as the devious older woman. Fun fact: starring opposite de Havilland as the sensitive young “Phillip” was a newcomer named Richard Burton. The novel was again adapted in 1983 as a mini-series starring Geraldine Chaplin. Other books by du Maurier that have been successful as movies are “Rebecca” and “The Birds.”

The current version of My Cousin Rachel is a beautifully crafted film. Director Roger Michell wrote the adaptation. The details in the sets and the feel of the environment immerse the audience in what seems like a very real depiction of the coast of Cornwall, the westernmost point of England, in the late 1800’s. Note that du Maurier lived on an estate in Cornwall herself for many years and was inspired to write this story by a painting of a “Rachel Carew” that hung on her wall. Every detail of the furnishings, the grounds, the environment rings true. The illumination of the rooms by candlelight seems completely natural. The colors reflect that soft radiance. There are scenes that show in great detail the interior of the estate as messy and neglected by its inhabitant, who knows or cares little about the indoors, while taking great labors to maintain his books and to pay great attention to his staff outdoors on the farm. Then after his longtime friend “Louise” offers to help ready the rooms for a highly anticipated guest, everything has been cleaned, displayed and put in order, the rich colors saturating the screen.

Rachel Weisz is a perfect choice to play “Rachel.” She has the ability to portray extremely subtle emotions in layers. She conveys a seemingly sincere caring quality masking a deep scheming mentality. Sam Claflin does a fine job as the naïve “Phillip” whose intelligence and command of his farm conceal a lack of experience interfacing with people. The magnetic dramatic force of the film is established before Rachel ever appears on screen – her reputation precedes her in a grand manner. Weisz does not disappoint. She is mystery incarnate in this movie. The looks rather than the language convey the truth, as is often the case in English literature of the period.

In My Cousin Rachel, as in real life, not everything is what it may seem, yet sometimes it is just that. What is true is that life is full of the unexpected. This is an excellent film for young adults as a detailed realistic look at life in England in the late 1800’s, at the social mores of the time and as a window into human interactions and psychology.

 

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com. For previously published reviews see https://kwboole.wordpress.com

 

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