Unbridled Extravagance

My Cousin Rachel

Director: Roger Michell

Cast: Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Iain Glen, Holliday Grainger, Pierfrancesco Favino, Andrew Knott, Tim Barlow

South African born British based director Roger Michell has been responsible for such films as Notting Hill, Changing Lanes, Morning Glory and Hyde Park on Hudson. Michell returns with a cinematic adaptation of the Victorian Gothic romantic drama by Daphne du Maurier My Cousin Rachel set in the dramatic cliffs of Devon and Cornwall and also in Florence Italy.

My Cousin Rachel is a handsome cinematic production held together by a suitably ambiguous performance by Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener, Youth) as Rachel Ashley who arrives in England to seduce the impressionably young Philip Ashley wonderfully played with besotted bewilderment by Sam Claflin (Me Before You, Their Finest and The Riot Club) who is proving to be one Britain’s rising young actors.

When young Philip’s legal guardian travels to Tuscany to recuperate and then mysteriously dies, leaving Philip’s claim to his cousin’s massive estate in a precarious position, Philip travels to Italy to uncover the source of the mystery surrounding his new relative the beautiful Rachel. Upon arrival in Italy he does not meet Rachel but the Italian lawyer handling his cousin’s affairs played by Pierfrancesco Favino (Rush, Angels and Demons), who Philip suspects is conniving with Rachel to steal Philip’s rightful inheritance.

Back in England, advised by his godfather Nick Kendall played by Game of Thrones star Iain Glen and his daughter Louisa played by Holliday Grainger (Cinderella, The Finest Hours and Anna Karenina), Philip is initially weary of Rachel as she sets foot on English soil soon to arrive at the family home at dusk.

Incredibly dramatic, the one thing Philip has not had in his life is any female influences so naturally he is completely beguiled by the beautiful and exotic half Italian Rachel who makes such a fashionable entrance in local society, which is enough to cause a mild scandal.

But as family jewels are generously given away and as Philip approaches his 25th birthday upon which he will rightfully inherit his cousin’s massive estate, intrigue within the landed gentry is heightened by the scheming and provocative Rachel who often dressed in mourning is portrayed as a sort of Black Widow, a woman with a rumoured  history of killing off husbands to profit off their inheritances.

My Cousin Rachel is the Victorian femme fatale, a noir female character who is subtly undermining all that the male hero is trying to achieve, which in this case is quenching his unbridled lust matched only by Rachel’s own unbridled extravagance. Sexual tensions simmer as the scheming continues, but as the narrative draws to a dramatic conclusion, My Cousin Rachel leaves audiences with a portrait of a woman with considerably dubious intentions.

My Cousin Rachel gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and will be enjoyed by audiences that love period dramas with a touch of the Victorian Gothic, especially scenes of luminous pearls cascading down darkened candlelit staircases.

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