My Cousin Rachel Review – Intriguing, Gripping, A Spellbinding Mystery

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My Cousin Rachel, from Fox Searchlight Pictures and Free Range Films, presents the story of a charming widow, of beguiling beauty, sophisticated grace, whose husband mysteriously dies but not before he sends alarming letters which accuse her of arranging his death.

Directed by Roger Michell, My Cousin Rachel stars Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Iain Glen, Holliday Grainger, Pierfrancesco Favino, Poppy Lee Friar, Katherine Pearce, Andrew Knott, Andrew Havill, Tim Barlow, and Vicki Pepperdine, and was written by Michell and adapted from the novel by Dauphne Du Maurier.

My Cousin Rachel opens with a voice over as Philip, played by Sam Clafin, offers a brief introduction of his good fortunate. An orphan he was taken in, by his cousin Ambrose Ashley, who is seen in still scenes from Philip’s memory.

As Philip grows Ambrose defines conventional advice and refuses to send him to a home where a proper family could raise him. Keeping him on his vast estate, where crops are planted and harvested with the help of farm hands, and on any given day a boy or man could ride to where the cliffs meet the sea.


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Given a proper education, Philip returns to the English Countryside realizing of all he has seen and read what he prefers is life on the estate. He and his Uncle share the manor with Seecombe, played by Tim Barlow, the Chef and Estate keeper.

Soon his Uncle Ambrose is diagnosed with a heavy chest cold and is sent to Italy, to the sunshine, to recover. His letters, which Philip freely shares with his godfather and financial guardian, Kendall, played by Iain Glen and his daughter, Louise, played by Holliday Grainger, at first recap his recovery, of which all celebrate.

Soon the letters take a different tone, of a sudden and unexpected love, a quick marriage, and then darker, she is evil, squeezing the life from him and will be the death of him. A loose sentence, discovered by Louise, begs him to come quickly.

Philip leaves immediately for Tuscany to find his Uncle and guardian dead. A mysterious stranger Rainaldi, played by Pierfrancesco Favino, who is also a physician is at the Villa when Philip arrives. Demanding to see his uncle he is told of his death and is given a death certificate. Soon he finds both Ambrose’s possessions and his wife have departed.

With only the letters to form an opinion, Philip, not yet 25, has decided if he had been with Ambrose before he had died he would still be alive.

And he is clear as he speaks aloud to himself, a pledge, swearing on his dead Uncle’s memory, that he will wage a war on the person responsible for his death, bringing down a hell upon her making her regret the day she had ever laid eyes upon him.

With this in mind, he sets about preparing for her arrival enlisting the help of Louise, whom all expect will eventually marry him, as he will soon inherit a vast estate of which her father has managed throughout the years ensuring a fortune. She takes to cleaning the dirty, dusty and dog hair infested manor as if it were her own. Soon the original man cave is warm and ready for guests, no matter how concerning.

Rachel, played by Rachel Weisz, who is an herbalist, arrives and takes to the manor as if it were her own. She insists on brewing herbs and herbal connections for all.

I really enjoyed My Cousin Rachel. It is an intriguing, spellbinding, mystery, a story of the ages. A widow, who possesses charm, beguiling beauty, sophisticated grace is invited or maneuvers her way into her husband’s family or is she cunning, a seductress manipulator?

 

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The film presents just enough uncertainty, with each moment that it is impossible to reach a definitive conclusion. Just as one pronounces judgment action counters and doubt appears. Is Rachel a black widow or innocent grieving widow?

Having the opportunity to speak with Roger Michell, the writer and director, in a phone interview which will be included separately, I asked him about the ambiguity of the character and was she a black widow or innocent grieving widow?

And was there a different ending the audience was to walk away with to which he replied “I didn’t want to know. I left it up to her.” And according to the press notes he also left it up to the other actors and insisted they not explain or bring their theories to him.

It was surprising that even the director refused to place his opinions or direction on the role. The only person who knows the motive behind Rachel’s actions in the film is the actress, Rachel Weisz, and so far, it has been a well-kept secret.

My Cousin Rachael is so clearly a psychological drama, a mental cat and mouse, that will leave the audience guessing to the end. And even then, the truth, or conclusion, is up for interpretation.

Who in the end is driving the wild, rash, and impulsive behavior? Is it Louise, and her father, Kendall? Reared by her father, to marry Philip, the entrance of Rachel is driving plans off a well-designed and manicured path.

Or is Rachel really the black widow and Rainaldi, her doctor friend, the benefactor? As the plot thickens the accusations are spoken and never proven, never presented with actual documentation, scenarios to check a young man’s mind and course of action.

My Cousin Rachel is mesmerizing, with calculated mind games, mental twists and turns as bonds are broken and destroyed. Captivating, a mystery as epic as the immense cliffs and vast estate, a tale of the ages.

My Cousin Rachel opens in theaters everywhere June 9, 2017. It is riveting. See it.

 

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