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My Cousin Rachel

Let’s face it: Victorian era stories and films aren’t for everybody. It takes a lot of stamina to get through a Jane Austen novel or one of its film adaptations. Nevertheless, for those that do find the strength, the genre tends to be very rewarding.

My Cousin Rachel is another adaptation about a mystery/romance in the English countryside. The story centers on the wealthy Philip (Sam Claflin), who has inherited an estate from his cousin/guardian Ambrose (also played by Claflin). But Philip is suspicious about the circumstances regarding his cousin’s death; he fears that Ambrose’s widow, Rachel (Rachel Weisz), may have killed him. However, when Rachel comes to visit Philip the suspicion slowly turns into affection, but is Rachel simply choosing a new victim?

The story has all the elements in needs to succeed. Two strong lead roles, a great technical crew making use of the lush English countryside and the period costumes, and an intriguing premise. But unfortunately the entire story seems to have been oversimplified. It’s almost as if the screenwriters feared the audience wouldn’t be able to keep up with the twists and turns. This seems a bit puzzling since the audience that comes to see this specific genre expects a complex story with vague and subtle hints; was this a ploy to perhaps modernize the genre to the more unfocused movie-goers of today? Whatever the reason, it detracts from any emotional or volatile aura. In fact this ‘dumbing down’ of the film made the surprising ending all the less impactful, whereas it should have been shattering for the viewers.

However, the two leads are able to have fun with the setting of the film; Claflin proves once again he has the chops to be a leading man, although I would like to see him in something other than a romantic film. As for Weisz, we all know of her capabilities, but in My Cousin Rachel she put forth a side that’s we’re not used to seeing: a villain. Weisz keeps us guessing using her reputation of always playing ‘nice’ characters, with sudden piercing stares that send shivers down your spine.

But in the end, this period film is not as tense or gut wrenching as it could have been. The filmmakers had some unknown reason for trimming the story so that we’re left with a rather typical and forgetful experience.



About Young Critic

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I've been writing on different version of this website since February of 2013. I originally founded the website in a film-buff phase in high school, but it has since continued through college and into my adult life. Young Critic may be getting older, but the love and passion for film is forever young. 

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