Based on Daphne Du Maurier’s 1951 novel of the same name, esteemed British filmmaker Roger Michell is now giving this tale the movie treatment – in what is the the first cinematic adaptation since the year after the book’s release. This complex, candid character study makes for compelling viewing, with staggeringly impressive character development that brings out two powerhouse performances from the lead stars Sam Claflin and Rachel Weisz.
Claflin plays Philip, an orphan raised by his cousin Ambrose, who relocates to Italy where he marries the beguiling Rachel Ashley (Weisz). Following Ambrose’s untimely death she heads to England, to stay with her bereaving cousin Philip – before the two fall hopelessly in love. Much to the displeasure of the young man’s guardian (Iain Glen) who had hoped his daughter Louise (Holliday Grainger) would eventually wed Philip, it’s a battle already lost for the latter becomes obsessed to the point of infatuation, blindly ignoring accusations that it was Rachel who may have murdered Ambrose.
He’s matched at every turn by Weisz who plays Rachel with a charisma that is enriched persistently by her vulnerability, beguiling but not a seductress. You believe why he fell for her, and you also adhere to the ambiguity that derives from her elusive intentions. Every phase is so wonderfully performed by the two leads, from the initial meetings, the grief they both feel, the ineffable excitement of falling in love, to the despair and the delusions, and eventually the anger and resentment.
What transpires is a beautifully nuanced period drama, so subtle and yet so captivating, right from start to finish, doing justice to this fine piece of literature. With so many layers, unfolding as we progress throughout this narrative, it’s a film you feel would make for great repeat viewing, with so many small details to explore and cherish.
My Cousin Rachel is released on June 9th