A dead cousin. A strange woman. A country estate to be had. This is the world we enter in Roger Michell’s latest film, My Cousin Rachel, starring Rachel Weisz in the title role, with Sam Claflin as the main character of Philip.
Having been raised by his cousin Ambrose since he was a boy, Philip now tends to the estate while Ambrose escapes the harsh winters of the English countryside in Italy. Before long, Philip receives word that Ambrose, a lifelong bachelor, has suddenly married a recently discovered distant cousin in Florence. The happy days are short-lived, however, as Philip is called to care for Ambrose, only to discover that he has died of a brain tumor. Suspicious of the cause of death and left as the sole heir of the estate, Philip plans to confront this woman and avenge Ambrose, only to confuse his purpose upon meeting her.
Based on the gothic-mystery novel by Daphne du Maurier, and a remake of the 1952 George Cukor film of the same title starring Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton, My Cousin Rachel attempts to be a moody, English mystery but unfortunately falls short of both the source material as well as the earlier film. While Weisz, as usual, is solid in her portrayal, so much of her performance is tied to that of Claflin’s role as Philip. He is both the protagonist as well as the primary weakness of the film, in that his convictions seemingly blow with the wind, while his struggle and suffering feel hollow. In short, Claflin simply lacks the intensity and raw emotion of Burton’s performance in the original film.