Saturday, 24 June 2017

My Cousin Rachel

My Cousin Rachel is my kind of film - fantastic acting, specially by Rachel Weisz, who is one of the best actors our there, wonderfully atmospheric tone, score and cinematography (which is also gorgeous), a simmering dark mystery that defies any attempts at an easy solution, and a quiet intelligent screenplay - and yet it still managed to disappoint, if only a little.

My Cousin Rachel, which is written and directed by Roger Michel (based on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier), stars Sam Claflin as Philip Ashley, an orphan brought up by his cousin Ambrose. When Philip is in his early twenties, Ambrose goes off to Italy for an extended visit. While there, he falls in love with, and marries, another cousin, Rachel (Weisz). But just before his untimely death (due to a mysterious illness), Ambrose sends Philip a letter accusing Rachel of being responsible for his death. Philip rushes to Italy to save Ambrose but is too late, meeting only Ambrose’s lawyer (or is it Rachel’s lawyer), Rinaldi (Pierfancesco Favino), who confronts Philip with the sad truth about Ambrose’s last days.

Philip returns home, where his guardian, Nick Kendall (Iain Glen), informs him that Rachel has no motive for killing Ambrose, who hasn’t left her a thing in his will (leaving everything to Philip). Still, when Rachel comes for a visit, Philip has only revenge on his mind, until …  And let’s leave it there, except to note that Kendall’s daughter, Louise (Holliday Grainger), who has always assumed that she will one day marry Philip, is about to have her hopes dashed.

As I said, the acting in My Cousin Rachel is stellar all around, and the atmosphere is wonderfully dark. Watching the mystery unfold was somewhat frustrating, because I kept thinking that, given the direction of the story, there was no way the ending would ever satisfy me, but I was wrong (at least in my reasoning; there were disappointing elements to the ending). 

The real disappointment for me, however, was, I believe, the character of Philip, who makes for a particularly infuriating (and thus often unsympathetic) protagonist. This prevented me from engaging with this dark romance in a way that would truly satisfy me. I am curious to see the 1952 version of the film, starring Richard Burton and Olivia de Havilland, to see if the same applies. In any event, I enjoyed My Cousin Rachel enough to give it a solid *** verging on ***+. My mug is up.

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