My Cousin Rachel starts with a letter from one cousin to the other; cousins who love and respect one another but have been apart for a very long time. This is writer/director Roger Michell’s (Notting Hill, Changing Lanes) take on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier and it’s rather entertaining, even if you do leave scratching your head.
Having been orphaned as a child when both of his parents had died, Philip (Claflin) is raised by Ambrose who gladly took him in. He, while single, managed to even play father figure while contemporaneously playing best friend to Philip. One day, Philip gets a letter from him and within the letter, he notices a secret message to him regarding his cousin’s wife, Rachel (Weisz). Ambrose believes that she is a danger to him and requests that Philip come as quickly as possible to help him. Sadly, he isn’t fast enough. Ambrose passes and he is beyond devastated. He was already looking to help Ambrose with his problem, now he wants desperately, to hunt her down and exact his revenge.
Philip speaks to the family lawyer, Kendall (Glen) about the estate and learns that Rachel had received no inheritance. This being the case, what would she have to gain from doing anything to hurt Ambrose? Philip is not deterred by this. Kendall may think she’s innocent but Philip, now head of the estate, will use all of his power to find Rachel and acquire the truth. Guessing she’s a foul beast, he calls on her and she comes to stay as a guest in the worst room Philip can put her in. She’s ever grateful and sweet about everything; fine with the accommodations and pleased to be so welcome. Once he sets his eyes on her, all plans Philip had are out the window. As his cousin surely did, he falls instantly in love. Is she a witch? Is she a vixen? Has she cast a spell on the impressionable young master of the house? Louise (Grainger), Kendall’s daughter, who had joked with Philip about what an awful person this Rachel must be and knew of his plans to ruin her, had set her eyes on Philip long ago. Once she sees Rachel with him, she knows she has no chance.
As her heart breaks, the audience grows suspicious about who this woman is and what she’s really after. If she is who Ambrose said she is, this young man who has zero experience with women has no chance against the likes of her. Let the games begin. It’s intriguing watching Rachel work her magic, both the actress and the character. With just one look from her, he changes in an instant… one tiny little kiss and he’s wrapped around her finger. She tells him intimate things such as the time she lost her baby and shows him honesty when people try to prove her anything but which leaves him more vulnerable and finds him more beguiled than before. Seems all is going according to plan, wouldn’t you say?
That’s where I got a little lost. I’m not certain of that. As I previously mentioned, by the time the credits role, this could be a little bit of a head scratcher for you. I must mention, however, that the performances were more than acceptable. His infatuated boy trying to become a man is very good and Weisz is strong as a woman to be suspicious of. She shows range as her character becomes sickeningly sweet one minute, full of despair the next, then suddenly turns back into someone you may have never known at all. I recommend a theatre watch, but maybe just a matinee. It’s beautiful to watch and the music is more than satisfactory for the period and is pleasing to your ears.