My Cousin Rachel 2017 ****

Rachel Weisz is the obvious and perfect candidate for the subject of Daphne du Maurier’s classic story, she’s perfected her wicked fairly god-mother routine in a number of films, and Roger Michell’s adaptation puts her centre stage. Phillip (Sam Clafin) has been raised by his older cousin, but when Ambrose dies overseas, his new wife Rachel returns to his country mansion. There’s ambiguity about Rachel’s’ intentions, does she desire Phillip, the estate, or both?  Clafin does a great job here as Phillip, managing to pin down the various stages of desire and denial as her wrestles with his feelings for his cousin, while Weisz delights in subverting expectations of who Rachel is and how she will act; the whole premise demands she maintains her ambiguity until the tragic ending,  and Weisz makes it stick. The production is suitable handsome but also atmospheric and deliberately dank; as Rachel’s scheme unwinds, the walls seem to close in on the innocent Phillip, and Michell milks the situation for every drop of cold-blooded drama.


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