Review: My Cousin Rachel (2017)

My Cousin Rachel (2017)

Directed by: Roger Michell | 106 minutes | drama, thriller | Actors: Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Holliday Grainger, Iain Glen, Pierfrancesco Favino, Simon Russell Beale, Tim Barlow, Bobby Scott Freeman, Tristram Davies, Andrew Havill, Vicki Pepperdine, Poppy Lee Friar, Katherine Pearce, Ray Sampson, Adam Loxley, Andrew Knott, Alexander Arnold, Cal McCrystal, Dorian Lough, Tobias Beer, Harrie Hayes, Christ Gallarus

The English county of Devon, sometime in the 19th century. Young Philip is taken in by his uncle, the wealthy landowner Ambrose. When he goes to Italy for a while to recover from a debilitating illness, Philip only hears from him through his letters. In it his uncle writes that he is married to one Rachel. Then Ambrose dies in Italy and Rachel drops by in Devon. Philip is convinced that she is responsible for his uncle’s death, but when he meets Rachel, he falls head over heels for her. And she for him too?

This is the synopsis of the American costume film ‘My Cousin Rachel’. Who knows that this Victorian thriller is based on a book by Daphne Du Maurier (“Rebecca”, “Jamaica Inn”) actually knows enough. Mysterious concoctions, mysterious strangers, torturous love, a will and a great legacy. And together with Cousin Philip you wonder more and more desperately who the real person is behind Cousin Rachel’s attractive appearance.

If this story is already conventional, the film adaptation takes it even further. Wild nature, creaking floors, clattering horses’ hooves, flickering candlelight and a continuous tinkling on the piano. The kind of tinkle that tells you that something isn’t quite right in this house. The portrayal of an obsessive crush and a short interlude in Florence also fit the bill perfectly. Moreover, the course and theme of this thriller (which you can never quite see behind the mask of the other) are anything but original.

The most amazing thing about ‘My Cousin Rachel’ is that this is not a BBC production but a 20th Century Fox film. Everything breathes the conservative, timeless class of the BBC. The film looks great, the actors do it right and the music, however cliché, does its job. Yet. The historical film genre isn’t known for being the most innovative, but to make a film that might as well have been made forty years ago… Isn’t that a little too easy?

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