My Cousin Rachel: Review

Let me start this review by saying that I haven’t read Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel, so I have no point of comparison between the book and the movie – as a bookworm at heart this disturbs me, to say the least. But, I did come out of the cinema with more than a few thoughts to make sense of.

Briefly summed up, My Cousin Rachel revolves around an orphaned boy, Philip who’s adopted by his cousin Ambrose, and for added confusion, these two look exactly alike. As Philip grows older, Ambrose grows iller, and is sent by his doctors to live in Florence. Whilst there, he meets, falls in love with, and marries Rachel, another cousin. Soon, Philip starts to receive disturbing letters from Ambrose, saying that Rachel is tormenting him, poisoning him, trying to kill him etc, etc. Philip believes these wholeheartedly, and when Ambrose dies, he immediately points the finger at Rachel. UNTIL, she arrives at the Ashley estate and Philip does a complete about turn and falls in love with her immediately. The ensuing story essentially rests on Philip’s obsession with Rachel, and everyone else’s growing doubt of whether she is a guardian angel or a witch, a rightful heir to Ambrose’s fortune or an out and out opportunist trying to poison Philip.

Although it’s got some big names in it (Rachel Weisz as Rachel and Sam Claflin as Philip), I felt throughout that the characters themselves were a little superficial, with more attention being paid to the obsessive love plot, which left me with little time to draw any conclusions about the characters, their motivations and their psychology for myself. Having not read the book, though, I’m more than likely missing some vital information that might have helped…

It may be worth remembering here, however, that the film starts and ends with the words, “Did she? Didn’t she? Who’s to blame?”. Whilst this isn’t the definitive ending I was looking for, it does hammer home the uncertainty that I think the viewer/ reader/ audience is meant to feel, as Philip, the leading man does. Punctuated by all the shots of Rachel Weisz looking enigmatic from behind a veil or with her face partially obscured, it’s really difficult to get any insight into what’s actually going on. Frustrating, but that’s how life works, right?

Wrong, if your Philip, at least, who is one of the most profoundly unlikable characters possibly in the whole of literature, ever. As an arrogant, entitled and misogynistic soon-to-be-man, Philip encompasses everything I dislike in people. I’m not sure why we’re made to feel this dislike for him though, whether we’re meant to see him reform by the end, or whether it’s a question of man vs. woman. Whatever the case, this wasn’t explained in the movie (it may be clearer in the book?) and it just made me frustrated with and for him for an hour and half.

Whilst there was a fair bit that left me a little disappointed though, the soundtrack worked brilliantly, as is so often the case in any movie, good or bad. Everything about the soundtrack points to murder-mystery, intrigue and trickery, that is so obviously the point of the whole story, especially when you put Daphne du Maurier’s name into the mix.

Overall, this probably isn’t one I’d watch again, just because it lacks the character depth and deeper plot insight I’d like it to have, but it definitely left me with a few interesting discussion points at the time and far more thoughts than I can write down here. Whilst the movie didn’t live up to my expectations, though, it has made me interested to read the book, just to see if I can glean any more insight into just what’s going on in everyone’s heads.