My Cousin Rachel
dir-scr Roger Michell
prd Kevin Loader
with Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Holliday Grainger, Iain Glen, Pierfrancesco Favino, Simon Russell Beale, Tim Barlow, Vicki Pepperdine, Bobby Scott Freeman, Poppy Lee Friar, Katherine Pearce, Andrew Havill
release UK/US 9.Jun.17
17/UK Fox 1h46
My Cousin Rachel
Black widow? Claflin and Weisz

grainger glen favino
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
My Cousin Rachel This new adaptation of the Daphne Du Maurier novel is beautifully shot and edited, with striking performances from a strong cast. And the plot is enjoyably insinuating as it snakes along. But the pacing slows to a stop about halfway through, and never quite regains the momentum. Which leaves it intriguing and handsome to look at, but not hugely involving.

In the early 19th century, Philip (Claflin) is running the Cornish farm of his beloved guardian, who moved to Italy for health reasons and married Philip's widowed cousin Rachel (Weisz). Now widowed a second time, Rachel returns to England to visit Philip, and he is instantly smitten. His godfather Kendall (Glen) warns him to be careful, and Kendall's daughter Louise (Grainger) watches in barely contained horror as her beloved Philip rewrites his documents to give the farm to Rachel on his 25th birthday, which is swiftly approaching.

The question, of course, is whether this is Rachel's modus operandi: seducing men and slowly killing them with her smelly herbal tea concoction. Is she manipulating Philip into giving her his fortune? Or is everyone but Philip suspicious for no reason? These questions circle through the film, while writer-director Michell does his best to continually wrong-foot the audience. Mike Eley's artful cinematography has a great eye for character detail, playing with perspective to offer hints at pretty much everything that might really be going on.

And the performances are just as mesmerising. Claflin has a likeable puppy-dog charm as a young man who falls under the spell of a mysterious woman of the world. He's sure his affections are true, until he isn't. And it's a problem that Michell kind of abandons him as a sympathetic character along the way. Weisz is charming and fascinating, mercurial and impossible to read, which is clever and a bit infuriating. Grainger gets a couple of terrific scenes, but other characters are smaller and more inscrutable. So the film is stolen by Barlow and Freeman as two wry servants.

Even if the story struggles to maintain the interest, there's plenty to enjoy on-screen. Alice Normington's production design manages to bridge the gap between grimy and sumptuous, all while staying remarkably realistic. Rael Jones' score is jaunty but also haunting. And Kristina Hetherington's editing cleverly keeps us guessing. There are also some superb landscapes, including a couple of jaw-dropping moments on the cliff-lined coast. So it's a shame that Michell never musters up the badly needed suspense or dread.

cert 12 themes, language, violence, sexuality 18.Apr.17

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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall