"My Cousin Rachel" Review

My Cousin Rachel is a story that at first glance, focuses on the mysterious Rachel and the question of whether or not she is a murderous black-widow type, seeking to rob men of their fortunes. But upon deeper inspection, the film boasts a wealth of commentary about the sexuality and autonomy of women.

Sam Claflin stars as both the young, impressionable Philip, and Philip's older guardian/cousin Ambrose who marries Rachel before his potentially untimely death. Though Philip heeds Ambrose's letter of warnings about Rachel poisoning him, his attitude shifts dramatically when Rachel comes to stay with him. One of the film's few stand-out weaknesses comes in the scene in which Philip and Rachel first meet. Considering the strength of Philip's attraction and how quickly it's meant to escalate, their first encounter is surprisingly flat, with little done in the way of camera work, lighting, or audio to communicate the magnitude of what we assume is supposed to be an instant infatuation. Still, Claflin holds his own as a young man spiraling into the the throes of an intense first attraction.

The overall pacing of the film is more subdued than the trailers may lead the audience to predict. The backdrop is a beautifully gloomy English countryside in the 19th century. Weisz excels throughout, never quite letting on whether Rachel is a murderous fortune-hunter or just a woman ahead of her time in her philosophies pertaining to sexuality and independence. Just like the Du Maurier novel on which the film is based, the film has more questions than answers regarding Rachel's motives.

With a non-traditional storytelling format that doesn't make the central point finding the answer of "Did she or didn't she?" the responsibility falls on the viewers to read between the lines and contemplate the many other facets of the plot. Audiences should come out ready to dissect the intricacies of the plot and enjoy Weisz's gripping performance.

My Cousin Rachel will be released in cinemas June 9.


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