My Cousin Rachel is a glossy remake of Daphne du Maurier’s romantic Gothic mystery set in 19th-century Cornwall, previously filmed with Olivia de Havilland and a young Richard Burton in 1952.
Here Sam Claflin plays the tale’s callow young hero, orphan Philip Ashley, who suspects foul play after his beloved guardian dies abroad following his marriage to the eponymous Rachel (Rachel Weisz). When she arrives at the large estate he is due to inherit on his 25th birthday, he resolves to expose her guilt – but finds himself falling under her spell instead.
Writer-director Roger Michell (Notting Hill) keeps us in a state of uncertainty as the melodrama unfolds. Is Weisz’s enigmatic femme fatale a scheming vixen or simply an unprotected penniless widow? What exactly are the ingredients of those herbal tisanes she likes to prepare? And why does drinking them give you a headache?
Michell leaves us guessing as Claflin’s impulsive protagonist wavers peevishly back and forth. Yet despite Weisz’s subtle actorly wiles the drama is surprisingly underpowered and its simmering passions never fully come to the boil.
Certificate 12A. Runtime 102 mins. Director Roger Michell
My Cousin Rachel is available on Digital Download from 16 October, and on Blu-ray & DVD from 30 October from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.