This is certainly the year of cool, calm, and calculated women – and that’s outside of politics, thank you very much. For a long while we (myself included) have never given our female characters the same weight as the men. For cinema watching, we have much higher standards for women to be good people, immediately equating well-written female characters with niceness. This has been proven with the onslaught of criticism squared at Miss Sloane as many didn’t like her icy exterior and focused ways. If we can follow the likes of Travis Bickle and the abundance of male dickheads on the screen, we can allow ourselves well-written but unlikable female characters.
Added to the ranks of Miss Sloane, and more brilliantly Elle, is My Cousin Rachel, starring a lead character with mysterious intentions and depth.
Directed and written by Roger Michell, based on a book by the terrific Daphne Du Maurier the film revolves around the stubborn farmer Phillip who has been raised by his cousin Ambrose since he was orphaned as a child. When Ambrose falls ill, he holidays in Florence to improve upon his health. There, however, Ambrose is drawn to a woman named Rachel and they hastily marry, much to the chagrin of Phillip. Upon news of his death, Phillip grows suspicious of Rachel’s intentions and involvement, vowing to exact revenge. That is until he meets her…
The growing talent of Sam Claflin has been a phenomenal one indeed. The actor could have easily been type-cast in this “handsome rogue” role that solidified his fame in The Hunger Games but he has chosen a variant of directors and roles, differing from the usual. With Lone Scherfig, he is able to convey foppish, smarmy, and discerning characteristics with ease and greatness. These are palpable qualities that he brings to the role of Phillip. As the young heir and farm-owner, he commands the screen with is a waspish and irritable man but layered with fascinating emotions and a beguiling innocence. This is all flourished with Claflin’s performance as he dominates with Phillip, making us yearn and burn alongside him.
The reason Rachel is such an invigorating character is because of the talent of Rachel Weisz. Look, let’s be honest here, ever since her work with The Mummy, there really isn’t a person on this Earth that wouldn’t watch her. She is soft and sullen, gracious and gregarious, intelligent and possibly insidious. The element of whether she’s a conniving murderous or a put-upon widow hangs gleefully in the air and Weisz’ subtly between the two sides crafts an intriguing character that relishes in this enigmatic role.
Added to this are Holliday Grainger and Iain Glen who add these outsider personas into the mix, making it devilishly interesting.
The biggest issue with My Cousin Rachel, which relishes in the period drama Gothic aesthetics and heightened repressed emotions, is the final third. So engrossing is the first hour and a half that it rushes all of a sudden through quite a lot of drama then abruptly ends. The descent into madness is completely faltered and the result is an underwhelming conclusion for a rather poetic and beautiful film that previously left you with all the whelm. It’s frustrating because the rapturous movie demanded your attention with infallible leads and a near perfect mystery period romp.
With gorgeous candlelit aesthetic as well as the British countryside, My Cousin Rachel is a must for brooding Du Maurier fans but lacks the much needed completion for anyone else.
My Cousin Rachel is out DVD & Blu-Ray!