My cousin Rachel is not a little known late 1970’s B side from The Undertones. No inner city angst here in pre industrial revolution Cornwall, but the film version of Daphne du Maurier’s novel is about young male frustration and unresolved sexual tension in a dark tale of murder, madness and manipulation.
Philip (Sam Clafin) is a young Englishman who finds his elder cousin Ambrose dead after travelling to Florence, Italy. He vows revenge against Ambrose’s missing wife Rachel, (Rachel Weisz) blaming her for his untimely demise. When Philip meets Rachel for the first time, his mood suddenly changes as he finds himself falling for her seductive charm and beauty. As his obsession for her grows, Rachel now hatches a scheme to win back her late husband’s estate from the unsuspecting Philip.
Or does she? Is Philip blinded first by fury at his cousin’s death and then by infatuation at Rachel’s charms, that he can’t see her plan turf him out of house and home? Is she as innocent in motive as he is sexually? It’s a story of wills, both legal and mental. She’s calm and measured but with a steely poise, whereas he’s posed to self destruct: a victim of desire and self doubt. What exactly has he let into his house and heart?
Can he trust his emotions; or Rachel as he finds evidence in his late cousin’s letters that seems to point to her role in driving him mad. Is history repeating itself all over again, as Rachel slowly inveigles herself into the life of the estate, eating at his table, while all the time, eating away at his mind?
This is a film that holds your attention without ever actually gripping it. There’s a certain distance and emotional reserve between Weisz and Clafin, despite the pangs of passion on his part.
Make your own mind up. The evidence is inconclusive and so is the film. Like Philip we are left wanting more as Rachel remains as enigmatic as ever right to the cliff hanger ending.