My Cousin Rachel offers mystery, suspense in period thriller

Rachel Weisz as "Rachel Ashley" in MY COUSIN RACHEL. Photo by Nicola Dove. © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

My Cousin Rachel is a well-made period dramatic thriller about romance and mystery even though it’s a remake.

Written and directed by Roger Michell from the novel by Daphne du Maurier, My Cousin Rachel stars Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Holliday Granger, Iain Glen, Pierfrancesco Favino, Simon Russell Beale, and Vicki Pepperdine.

My Cousin Rachel is set mostly on an estate in England where a young man decides to take revenge against his cousin as he believes that she murdered his guardian.  As things play out, he starts becoming infatuated with Rachel and no longer decides to take revenge on her.  Instead, he wishes to marry her.

Rachel is the widow of Ambrose, who raised Phillip following the death of his parents.  Based on the letters from Ambrose, Phillip is sure that Rachel killed him.  As the film ends, there’s still not one set answer so the audience is left to debate whether or not she killed him.

Based on the trailer, I was expecting more of a thriller than drama as I am not familiar with the source material.  Some of the musical score played in a way in which you’d expect from the dramas that play more to the mystery and suspense side of things.  One could make the argument that it is more of a dramatic thriller.

“I think for Philip, Rachel feels like she comes from another world,” Mitchell says.  “And in a way, she really does.  She’s from a distant and exotic country.  Her language, her clothes, her appetites, her understanding of the world are utterly foreign to him.  She’s beautiful, articulate, fun, and completely disrespectful of stuffy contemporary convention.  The book is set in the 19th Century, but written in 1950.  So I think of it as a kind of post-Freudian version of Jane Austen, if you will.  On one level it’s a period thriller about falling in love and family estates and so on, but on another, it’s conversation about sexuality, about women’s freedom in a man’s world, about issues of women’s power.  I wanted Rachel to feel in part like a woman from 2017 who parachuted into that world … the woman who fell to earth.”

In many ways, it feels as if Rachel is independent, even as a widow.  She’s this mysterious woman to Phillip and those who know him.

The novel the film was based on was originally written in 1951 and of course, the author wrote books that were turned into three Alfred Hitchcock films.  In fact, this isn’t the first adaptation of My Cousin Rachel.  The 1952 movie starred Richard Burton and Olivia De Havilland, earning four Oscar nominations and a Golden Globe Award.  Will the remake (yes, I’m calling it a remake) go in the same direction?  It’s hard to say.  It’s early June but at the same time, Oscar nominees are no longer limited to the final months of the year.

Fox Searchlight will open My Cousin Rachel on Friday, June 9th.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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