Review / ‘My Cousin Rachel’ (M) ***

WRITER/director Roger Michell’s film tells of dark events in what might be a late 18th/early 19th century story about a young man’s loss of innocence and a mature woman’s deviousness in her quest for his inheritance.

Sam Claflin plays Philip, reared by his cousin in a well-to-do country household where there are no women. From Italy, Philip gets a letter imploring him to come to the rescue of that cousin who, on a holiday, has married there and now fears that his wife is trying to kill him. The cousin has died before Philip gets there. His Italian attorney tells Philip of an inheritance, to begin on his 25th birthday.

Philip forms an intense dislike of the widow Rachel, now his cousin, without having met her. Eventually she arrives at the house in England. Inevitably, Philip falls for her. They make love in a bosky dell on a carpet of bluebells. All seems rosy. They marry. In boyish passion, Philip has made a new will to take effect on his 25th birthday. But both of Rachel’s two former husbands are dead. So why does she now insist that Philip drink the tisane that she had brewed with her own hands?

Rachel Weisz plays the widow now Philip’s wife Rachel. The film nicely portrays the life of a moderately wealthy landowner as it develops unhurriedly toward a denouement marked less by tension than inevitability.

As I haven’t read Daphne du Maurier’s novel I’m unable to tell you how faithfully its third venture on the big screen adapts it. But the threads of conflict form a web of suspense that makes watching Michell’s film a satisfying experience.

 At Palace Electric, Dendy and Capitol 6

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