REVIEW: My Cousin Rachel

10 06 2017

Roger Michell’s “My Cousin Rachel” opens with voice-over from Sam Claflin’s Philip spelling out the questions the audience should ask by the end of the film. It only gets less subtle from there.

Michell’s film is not a suspense film or a thriller film, although it looks like a well-studied imitation of one. Plenty of frames taken individually look like they could end up on One Perfect Shot. Once there’s any movement in them, however, we realize Michell’s ham-handed direction more closely resembles a Super Bowl commercial set in Victorian England. It hits the marks but lacks the soul.

The film’s drama plays out over the estate of a dead man as both his surrogate son Philip and his widow Rachel (Rachel Weisz) vie for his riches. The will gives everything to Philip, yet after meeting Rachel for the first time, the heir has some second thoughts about taking it all for himself. His relationship with her begins with fear and suspicion, becomes tinged with some guilt … and then somehow turns into full-on attraction for her?! It’s as if a switch goes off in Philip’s junk that suddenly lights a spark for the woman he might have called “mom” under more fortuitous circumstances.

Beyond the film’s inexcusable refusal to consider the Freudian implications, there’s not the slightest connection between Weisz and Claflin that would make this plot point believable. Beyond the infatuation coming out of nowhere, their performances have little in common besides them sharing the same scenes. Claflin plays Philip as an impetuous 25-year-old with no understanding of his own psychology, while Weisz phones in remoteness.

Equally as implausible is the con thriller playing out within “My Cousin Rachel.” No spoiler tags are necessary to say what’s obvious from looking at this plot from a mile away: Rachel is clearly trying to play mind games to get what she views as hers. Even without a lifetime’s worth of similar stories from the genre, it’s hard to believe Philip lacks any self-awareness that he could be the mark in a robbery scheme. When it finally hits him – too late, of course – he simply states, “I’ve been a fool,” and hangs his head in silence. The auditorium in which I saw the film supplied the dead air with chortles, groans and eye rolls aplenty. C-

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2 responses

11 06 2017
smilingldsgirl

Yeah I just posted my review. I wasnt quite as harsh but I get what you are saying. He is such a moron

14 06 2017
CineMuseFilms

I enjoyed your review thank you, even though I do not agree with your conclusions. This film is slow, but deliciously so. The tension between Weisz and Claflin is palpable and the filming is superb. I happily gave it four out of five stars.

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