Now, I ain’t say­ing she a gold dig­ger . . .

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS -

MY COUSIN RACHEL ★★★

Di­rected by Roger Michell. Star­ring Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Hol­l­i­day Grainger, Iain Glen, Pier­francesco Favino, Si­mon Rus­sell Beale. 12A cert, gen re­lease, 105 min One of many juicy mo­ments in this agree­able adap­ta­tion of a pop­u­lar Daphne du Mau­rier novel finds dis­cus­sion of an Italo-English in-law turn­ing to her ru­moured “lim­it­less ap­petites”.

A com­bi­na­tion of tit­il­la­tion and re­vul­sion colours the de­liv­ery of those syl­la­bles. As with the same au­thor’s Re­bec

ca, My Cousin Rachel has much to do with fem­i­nine me­nace. But it also en­joys play­ing with a some­time English sus­pi­cion of ex­oti­cism. Those com­plexes have less­ened since the novel’s pub­li­ca­tion in 1951 and such scenes now add wel­come com­edy to an of­ten-ex­haust­ing melo­drama. Roger Michell’s adap­ta­tion doesn’t quite drift into self-par­ody, but there are laughs here if you know where to look.

The script fil­lets out much of the early epis­to­lary nar­ra­tive, but it still man­ages to tan­ta­lis­ingly de­lay the glam­orous me­nace’s ar­rival. Sam Clafin plays Philip, a Cor­nish landowner who has been largely raised by his (un­seen here) cousin Am­brose. The older cousin trav­els to Italy where he meets and falls in love with the be­witch­ing Rachel (Rachel Weisz).

Am­brose’s let­ters home be­gin idyl­li­cally, but, fol­low­ing mar­riage and a de­cline in his health, he be­gins drop­ping hints that Rachel may have sin­is­ter in­ten­tions (as bloody for­eign­ers al­ways do). Am­brose dies. Philip fumes. Even­tu­ally Rachel turns up in Eng­land and, as his sus­pi­cions di­lute, Philip starts plot­ting to hand her the es­tate.

The story hangs around an am­bi­gu­ity as to Rachel’s in­ten­tions. Is she a ma­nip­u­la­tive gold dig­ger or is she the vic­tim of un­sub­stan­ti­ated ru­mour? The re­li­ably charis­matic Weisz wisely plays the role straight with no eye-rolling hints or give­away twitches. Take her as she ap­pears and she is surely noth­ing but an or­na­ment to the world. Look side­ways at the facts and she seems more like a clas­sic femme fa­tale. Clafin’s rel­a­tive youth makes his con­fu­sion all the more plau­si­ble.

At­trac­tively shot on lo­ca­tion with lovely sup­port­ing turns by Iain Glen (the wise el­der) and Hol­l­i­day Grainger (the usurped in­no­cent), My Cousin Rachel has enough un­easy mo­ments – the sex is no­tably im­bal­anced – to sep­a­rate it from classy Sun­day-night telly. It’s such a shame that it doesn’t end more sat­is­fac­to­rily. It builds and it builds. Then the walls too sud­denly come crash­ing down.

Worth­while for all that. DON­ALD CLARKE

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