A young Englishman plots revenge against his late cousin's mysterious, beautiful wife, believing her responsible for his death. But his feelings become complicated as he finds himself falling under the beguiling spell of her charms.
Philip, an orphan, was taken in and brought up by his cousin Ambrose, a Devon landowner he loves like a father. At a time, Ambrose, who has been advised by his physician a warmer climate, leaves for Tuscany. There he meets and marry Rachel, a half-Italian cousin of his. After an idyllic outset, the situation deteriorates. Shortly before his death, Ambrose manages to alert Philip: his wife is killing him slowly. Willing to sort out the truth, Philip goes to Ambrose's place but he does not find Rachel, who has gone away. Instead he meets Rainaldi, her friend and lawyer, who does not inspire him with confidence. He returns to his estate, persuaded that Rachel is evil and is the direct cause of Ambrose's death. Some time later, Rachel announces her coming. Determined to welcome her coolly, he is stunned to discover a woman not only beautiful but elegant, intelligent and sensitive. Instead of strangling her like he said he would, he falls in love. Madly.Written by
IN BRIEF: A romantic mystery that downplays the romance and mystery.
SYNOPSIS: A man falls in love with a mysterious woman who may or may not be a murderer.
JIM'S REVIEW: The remake...such a big part of the film industry, both here in America and abroad. The crazy notion that the original needs a new audience is big business with the end results usually being that the remake is new but not improved. The reason for this practice is twofold: 1. to bring instant revenue from a known product and 2. to update for today's modern moviegoers and re-imagine that original source.
￼The film adaptations of Daphne Du Maurer's romance mystery, My Cousin Rachel, seem to have a difficult go from the start. The plot lays down an interesting premise about love, greed, and murder amid the landscape of Cornwall, England, but never fulfills its promise of intrigue, allowing for a very ambiguous ending and questionable characters and actions rather than solve the mystery. Both versions, old and new, suffer the same results.
￼The 1952 film heralded a young Richard Burton in his Oscar nominated film debut and Olivia DeHavilland in the title role. While Mr. Burton was perfectly cast, Ms. DeHavilland played the role too demurely, never giving the character that necessary air of mystery. The romance was missing too. In this current film, Sam Claflin plays Cousin Philip to Rachel Weisz's Cousin Rachel and they too are mismatched. In this case, Ms. Weisz is perfectly cast has the lady of mystery and gives an arresting performance, but Mr. Claflin comes up empty, playing his role as an adolescent in dry heat. The actors try but their relationship lacks credibility as written in Roger Michell's screenplay.
￼The script fails to address the main mystery: Is Rachel a black widow or just misunderstood? The plot devices are all there (the dangerously high cliffs, the possibly poisoned teas, the hidden letters, etc.) but they never amount to much, in most cases. The melodrama is essentially well played but the reactions of the townsfolk toward this beautiful stranger seem off. (They forgive her trespasses rather too easily and rarely question her actions or motives. Yes, some do periodically suspect something odd but they are beguiled quickly...too quickly for logic sake.) As written, Claflin's Philip comes off as a simpleton when he should be viewed as a passionate victim transfixed by her beauty and exotic manner. Mr. Burton could project that well, Mr. Calflin projects strong cheekbones and dimples.
￼The cast of talented actors is underused and rarely hit their marks in this lackluster film. Iain Glen is wasted in his small supporting roles and as Rachel's confidant and friend, Pierfrancesco Favino seems more the foolish fop rather than possible romantic rival. Only Holliday Grainger as Louise, Philip's loyal friend, delivers a fully nuanced performance.
The production values are standard and the photography by Mike Eley provides little atmosphere, relying heavily on soft focus, close-ups, or dark shadows to provide mood. Objects and props always seem to bookend the actors as if both are vying for one's attention.
￼Mr. Michell's direction doesn't help matters, but then neither did his script. He paces the film so slowly, uses voice-over narration to fill in missing exposition and scenes, builds little suspense, and doesn't allow his characters any meaningful exchanges. He may be earnest and sincere about his project, but he needed to distance himself from his material to see the end result more clearly.
Relatively speaking, My Cousin Rachel, is a disappointing family affair.
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