Thursday, June 22, 2017

My Cousin Rachel: Monday, June 19 2017

My Cousin Rachel, directed and written by Roger Mitchell, is the latest adaptation of the book by the same name, written by Daphne du Maurier (1951). The book, a Gothic, mystery romance, sets the scene in a large country estate in Cornwall, England, during the mid 1800's.

Rachel Weisz as cousin Rachel Ashley and Sam Claffin as Philip Ashley ought to be perfect for their parts. The rest of the cast are as attractive, and this should have helped make the film more enjoyable. The cinematography is gorgeous but a little strange for a Gothic story. Too much colour, and not enough atmosphere perhaps. The music is modern. and didn't appeal to me, and doesn't create a sound that could be remotely thought of as eighteenth century, or Gothic, It has no suggestion of mystery. The script left something to be desired. The element of mystery is essential for the Gothic mystery romance, but this was absent from this film.

We are told the story through the eyes of Philip, a twenty-five-year-old young man who has had nothing to do with women, and is still a virgin. He is a bit of a boor, and my friends were divided as to whether he was as stupid as at times he appears. As he hadn't had much to do with women, he is emotionally immature. Perhaps this is why he could have switched so quickly emotionally from hating Rachel and wishing her dead, to becoming so totally infatuated with her. As he swings from suspicions that Rachel murdered his cousin, to being sure she is innocent of any accusations, he shows his need to grow out of his adolescence. In spite of the attractive Sam Claffin, Philip is not a character we can sympathize with too much. Which is a pity, as it is necessary to our enjoyment of the story that we do sympathize with him.

We hear nothing from Rachel of her side of the story, and she is meant to be a femme fatale. Weisz plays her as a sexually liberated woman, but she appears too modern to be a Gothic mystery woman. What a waste of the talents of Rachel Weisz!

The book is considered one of du Maurier's best. She was at the height of her powers as a writer and mistress of the Gothic mystery genre. Roger Mitchell, although an experienced director, is not a master of this genre. Or perhaps he has deliberately chosen to avoid the Gothic side of this story. Is it conceivable that he decided to make a version that is different from the original conception of du Maurier? Did he decide to present it in a more modern light for the sake of a younger audience. Does this mean that he has lost the audience who loves the Gothic mystery romance? Whatever his thinking, My Cousin Rachel doesn't hit any of the correct notes to be satisfying.

It's not too bad a film, as long as you aren't looking for a recognizable replay of the book. It helps if you don't know too much about Cornwell in the 1800s, or the Gothic mystery romance.

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