My Cousin Rachel

Year: 2017
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Director: Roger Michell
Writer: Roger Michell/Daphne du Marier
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin

I've only seen one other Roger Michell movie, Hyde Park on Hudson, and while it was exquisitely designed and acted, the story left me completely cold and there was absolutely no dramatic passion. Undoubtedly that was a virtue of the period, when grand expressions of lust weren't de riguer, but I realised at some point that it was nearly putting me to sleep.

My Cousin Rachel has the same quality. Michell's a great director, but he's interested in slow, winsome glances through lace cuirtains, not the swoony tearing off of bodices and pantaloons through heavy breath. It's also (again, because of the period) thoroughly infected with the gold/brown autumnal hues independent filmmaking is replete with, and while it suits the story and the time and place it represents, there are just so many movies like it I find it very visually dull.

The story is a very chaste romance potboiler (as you'd expect, being based on a Daphne du Marier novel) about a young man, Philip (Sam Claflin), coming into an inheritance from a beloved father figure who's died overseas. He knows his guardian married a young Englishwoman who took him to Italy to convalesce from sickness, but his last communication with his erstwhile father is a letter begging Philip to free him from some horrific bondage she's apparently keeping him under.

Philip becomes convinced this woman seduced and married him to get his fortune so he resolves to bring her to England and learn the truth. But no sooner does Rachel (Rachel Weisz) show up than she starts to beguile Philip the same way she presumably did his guardian before him.

The entire plot is a series of red herrings and furphies designed simply to make you wonder whether she is or isn't a ruthless social climber and killer, going from cold and eerily malevolent to loving and caring to everyone around her. And all the while Philip falls more in love with her, only clouding his judgment further.

There's enough in the plot to keep you interested in anticipation of the reveal (but don't assume it does in traditional 'it was Colonel Mustard with the candlestick in the parlour' fashion), it's just so drab, the Austen-era manners and social interaction draining it of any emotion that might give it a dramatic charge.

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