MOVIE: MY COUSIN RACHEL
STARRING: RACHEL WEISZ; SAM CLAFLIN; IAIN GLEN; HOLLIDAY GRAINGER
DIRECTED BY: ROGER MICHELL
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
My Cousin Rachel is a movie that telegraphs the audience almost everything that is going to happen. And my advice to you, is to just sit back and enjoy this wickedly delicious film. Director Roger Michell's newest film comes from the mind of famous English Author Daphne Du Maurier, whose works include Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds and Rebecca. As you could expect, this is a film of plotting, scheming, and evil twists, but even if you are fully prepared for all of that, it still makes for a fascinating story of lies and deception. My Cousin Rachel is a period peace perfect for today, in this lush looking and devilishly fun affair.
Sam Claflin plays the young Philip, an orphan, whose cousin has left him to tend to the estate while he spends time in France with a woman he has become involved with- Rachel (Rachel Weisz). When a series of cryptic letters make their way back home, Philip begins to suspect that the reason for his cousins eventual passing is because of Rachel, the blood sucking widow. He seeks her presence, all but prepared to give her a piece of his mind, till he is almost instantly smitten with her beauty. His puppy love is stronger than ever, leaving us wondering what about your cousins warning letters? What if this woman is using you for a piece of the massive family fortune?
Michell's work here is a many layered thing. The director of Notting Hill and Le-Weekend, tips his cards early on how he wants us to perceive these characters, as Rachel's interest in exotic teas leave those who drink it feeling sick (poison?), while her “oh who me?” attitude drives the men wild, but the wise neighborhood friend Louise (Holliday Grainger, her performance is the real standout) sees right through her charade. It's how Michell pairs these characters with beautiful set designs, simply gorgeous cinematography from Mike Eley, and stellar costumes that allows it all to be such fun. Without all of it, this would be too predictable to enjoy.
Eventually, the love Philip has for Rachel leads him to drafting a will that would give her his massive fortune. This of course, is a cautionary tale, as his friend Nick (played by Game of Thrones star Iain Glen) repeatedly tells him that it might not be a wise idea to relinquish so much to someone he does not truly know. That is where a lot of the films fun and frustrations come from. Although it is manipulating, it is also quite predictable, with a script that moves too fast for us to appreciate the scheming and moves made by characters. Films like Sense & Sensibility or The Age of Innocence are much better at these sort of things.
That's not to say My Cousin Rachel should be a perfect film, on the contrary, it's actually quite full of itself, often using wild camera moves of deep focus, wide overhead images of the English cliffs, and dark lit corridors to set a gothic mood. These examples, however, are a reason to why I enjoyed this film. It's not interested in being flawless, but it wants to get you to the point, because the twists are what's most important here. And boy, do we get some twists and turns. My Cousin Rachel is a nice reminder that sometimes the messages we need, are right in front of us, but always trust yourself. Don't trust someone whom you know nothing about.
Written by: Leo Brady