My Cousin Rachel – a preview

Screening this Wednesday 24th January, Corn Hall previewer David Vass praises this new adaptation of du Maurier’s classic tale.

There must be something about Daphne du Maurier’s lean prose that lends itself to film adaptation, if great films like Rebecca, The Birds, and Don’t Look Now are anything to go by. To that list we might have already added My Cousin Rachel based of the 1950s adaptation. We certainly need to do so now that Roger Michell has delivered his thrilling new version – a heady cocktail of old-fashioned costume drama and queasy psychological thrill ride.

Set in a beautifully photographed West Country backdrop and backed by a sumptuous music score, Michell’s taut direction of his own script doesn’t waste a second of screen time – delivering a film that is both handsome to look at and engaging to watch. Rachel Weisz is perfectly cast as the alluring older woman – think Mrs Robinson in period costume – while Sam Claflin’s baby-faced Philip Ashley strikes just the right balance between petulant youth and romantic lead.

There’s good support work too, from Holliday Grainger, Iain Glen and Pierfrancesco  Favino, but we never stray too far from the ambiguous, incendiary and distinctly unhealthy relationship between what is effectively a young man and his widowed stepmother. It’s a measure of both Michell’s direction and du Maurier’s source material, that we are kept guessing right up until (and perhaps a good while after) the closing moments of the movie.

By David Vass