Never a fan of Du Maurier’s sub-Bronte shananigans, but desperate to like this one, Robert Michell’s costume psycho-drama proves the existence of LAS – Literary Adaptation Syndrome.
The necessary over-compression of a long novel beats all the mystery out of Du Maurier’s ‘did-she-didn’t-she’ plot, reducing it to Fatal Attraction in Crinolines, with all the subtlety of a bulldozer crashing through your window.
The usually admirable Rachel Weisz and Sam Claflin are ill-served by both script and direction. Weisz lacks the allure of the titular cousin Rachel, the half-Italian seductress who reels in desperate batchelor Philip Ashleigh, pitching solidly between con-woman and black widow poisoner, when the whole point of the novel is the uncertainty. But Claflin’s grumpy Philip, a curmudgeonly misanthrope with middle-aged manners and the petulance of a twelve-year-old boy, displays such moronic naivety and selfishness it is difficult to care about either of them.
Solid support from Iain Glen and Simon Russell-Beale, with Holiday Grainger the most sympathetic and longest-suffering of all of them, highlights how badly the two leads handle the material.
From the opening scene, the ever-present score by Rael Jones can’t make it’s mind up if it’s backing a tragic romance or a haunted-house horror.
The ending literally throws the whole movie suddenly and unexpectedly over a cliff and wraps up in two minutes with no regard for consequences, which cheapens the preceding hour and forty-four.
Still, the English countryside photographs nicely in the hands of cinematographer Mike Ely. RC
My Cousin Rachel (2017)
Director: Roger Michell
Writer: Roger Michell
Genre: Drama, Adaptation
Running time: 1hr 46min
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Holliday Grainger, Iain Glen, Pierfrancesco Favino, Andrew Knott, Poppy Lee Friar, Andrew Havill, Vicki Pepperdine, Katherine Pearce