Rachel Weisz in a scene from film My Cousin Rachel.
Rachel Weisz in a scene from film My Cousin Rachel.

MOVIE REVIEW: Claflin and Weisz play cat and mouse in intriguing My Cousin Rachel

A LIVELY costume-drama curio, My Cousin Rachel is laced with plenty of twists, turns and mood swings to keep everybody on their toes.

This playfully deceptive adaptation of the 1951 Daphne du Maurier novel can be as calculatedly camp or subtly sophisticated as you want it to be.

The setting is a rustic rural estate on the southwest coast of England (the bits of Cornwall they don't use for TV's Poldark, to be exact).

Sam Claflin in a scene from film My Cousin Rachel
Sam Claflin in a scene from film My Cousin Rachel

It is the late 1830s, and a fresh-faced young gentleman farmer named Philip Ashley (Sam Claflin) is about to turn 25, and thereby claim his rightful inheritance of this valuable property.

However, a surprise visit from his late benefactor's middle-aged widow could result in an unforeseen change of arrangements.

Rachel Weisz as Rachel Ashley in My Cousin Rachel.
Rachel Weisz as Rachel Ashley in My Cousin Rachel.

A cleverly structured mystery not so much unfolds as unravels upon the arrival of Rachel (Rachel Weisz) from her home in Italy.

There are whispers going around that Rachel has a reputation in Europe for enjoying and dispensing with male companions as she sees fit. Philip himself has a hunch that she may have hastened the passing of his good friend and mentor Ambrose (also played by Claflin in a few brief early scenes).

However, once the naive Philip casts eyes on Rachel - clad respectably in black, and suitably mournful in disposition - the lad develops a crush that soon has him seeing her in a far more positive light.

Sam Claflin as Philip and Rachel Weisz as Rachel Ashley in My Cousin Rachel.
Sam Claflin as Philip and Rachel Weisz as Rachel Ashley in My Cousin Rachel.

While there do appear to be a few worrying blank spaces in Rachel recounting of her own recent history, there are also a few vexing changes in Philip's behaviour that seem just as inexplicable.

Under the shrewd, teasing direction of veteran director Roger Michell, My Cousin Rachel smartly allows its intriguing premise to fuel two juicy conspiracy theories for the price of one.

Is Philip about to receive a classical catfishing from his alluring guest? Or could he be catfishing himself?

What follows is an engrossing game of cat-and-mouse between a woman who may know too much of the world, and a man who definitely has seen too little of it.

MY COUSIN RACHEL (M)

Director: Roger Michell

Starring: Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Holliday Grainger, Iain Glen, Pierfrancesco Favino.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Verdict: Where there's a will, there's a way-out story


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