Film review: MY COUSIN RACHEL, by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Based on the Daphne Du Maurier novel, My Cousin Rachel is a period melodrama with a touch of Hitchcockian mystery. While well-performed by an impressive cast that includes Sam Claflin and Rachel Weisz, the film’s minimalist plot, leisurely pacing and odd tonal shifts make it a slightly unsatisfying experience.

Sam Claflin plays young English country gent Phillip Ashley who, since being orphaned as a child, has resided at his beloved cousin Ambrose’s sprawling estate. When Ambrose moves to a warmer climate for his health and eventually marries the eponymous Rachel, Philip is gutted. When Phillip learns that Ambrose has died he becomes obsessed with the notion that the mysterious Rachel is behind it. When it is announced that Rachel will visit the Ashley estate, Philip plots revenge but his scheme takes an unexpected turn when he becomes besotted with her. As their relationship grows he again begins to suspect her motives.

Director Roger Michell has fashioned an attractive at times atmospheric drama that captures the period convincingly and provides sumptuous shots of verdant English fields and coastlines. The film is let down, though, by uneven pacing that jarringly shifts from unnecessarily manic scenes to slow uneventful ones.

Weisz and Claflin are fine actors and deliver impassioned performances but combined with the bombastic music they at times seem a little over-the-top. Their seduction, which forms the central part of the film, constantly switches from sensual to shrill and is never as intoxicating as it should have been. A cast that includes Cleverman’s Iain Glen and Anna Karenina’s Holliday Grainger offer solid support although theyre constrained by underdeveloped characters.

My Cousin Rachel is an aesthetically appealing melodrama but not the potent psychological thriller it should have been.

Nick’s rating: **1/2

Genre: Mystery/ period film/ drama/ romance.

Classification: PG.

Director(s): Roger Michell.

Release date: 8th June 2017.

Running time: 105 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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