Rebecca author Daphne du Maurier’s 1951 novel My Cousin Rachel receives its second silver screen adaptation with this handsome effort from Hyde Park on Hudson director Roger Michell. Starring Rachel Weisz as the titular widow, rising British star Sam Claflin takes the lead as soon-to-be lord of the manor Philip – whose desire to give in to the allure of his elder cousin and patron’s bereaved is matched only by his burning need to discover whether or not she was in fact responsible for his untimely demise.
Fresh and accessibly constructed for a contemporary audience, this would-be black widow tale plays as almost a mainstream counterpoint to the more intriguing – yet notably less populist – Lady MacBeth. With solid craftsmanship all round, Michell’s film is at once both lavish and despondently rooted in the gothic, with a powerful and very carefully nuanced performance by the scintillating Weisz more than able to keep proceedings both fascinating and suspenseful to the bitter end.
It’s Claflin who delivers the more surprising turn though, his lead a compelling character whose struggle with facing the potential monster before him – as well as the heated chemistry between them – rests heavily on a gravitas and ability to project turmoil the young star has never quite reached before. It’s a star-making turn for the Me Before You actor, and one which finally makes the case for him as a leading man going forward.
On the whole, My Cousin Rachel delivers on the twists, turns and compelling drama upon which du Maurier’s well-deserved legacy is founded. Cinematographer Mike Eley brings the expansive goods, and Alice Normington’s production design ensures it’s a world you feel wholeheartedly immersed in. It’s the two leads who truly sell the endeavour though, with one now a seasoned character actress riding high at the top of her game, and the other an aspiring star finally showing off the potential to be just that. As Claflin is by its titular character, you’ll be drawn in the beguiling My Cousin Rachel, and you’ll be rewarded with a compelling tale as a result.
My Cousin Rachel is in cinemas nationwide from Friday, June 9th; rated 12A. Check out the trailer below.