My Cousin Rachel, written and directed by Roger Michell, based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier
Rachel Weisz is the acclaimed actress that portrays Cousin Rachel, but one may feel that her partner on the big screen, Sam Claflin as Philip, does a much better job in his leading role.
Granted, this cinephile has never been a fun of Ms. Weisz, whose style appears to be often over the top, at least from this – probably wrongheaded – perspective.
Philip is very fond of his cousin, Ambrose, who has been like a father for the young relative, and the older man is recommended a spell in the Italian sun, to help him with the ailment he suffers from.
This is where Ambrose meets Rachel Ashley, mentions her with delight in his letters, until he announces that he has married the unknown woman and just before he dies, he sends the message that his spouse is killing him.
Traveling to Italy, the hero does not meet the suspect, but encounters Rainaldi, the latter would be himself suspected of wrongdoing, at a later stage, wherein the protagonist would think the Italian has an affair with “Cousin Rachel”.
Further revelations would uncover the truth, which is that Rainaldi prefers men and therefore he was suspicious, but not guilty of having been involved with Rachel Ashley.
Nevertheless, this woman seems to have had a tumultuous past, Kendall, another key character in the story, talks to Philip about what he has discovered, which is that the passionate cousin has had lovers and two of them have fought a duel, had made outrageous expenses for her and Rachel was reputed to be “insatiable”
When he hears all this, Philip is already infatuated with this attractive personage- by this time he would have met her and fallen for her- and disputes the accounts and even says that he thought Kendall above such preposterous gossip, which is good only for base people, uneducated folk.
Whereas upon learning that Ambrose was sure the woman was killing him the hero became an adversary, after meeting Rachel, he became slowly so taken with her that he commits all sorts of strange acts.
He gives her a necklace of very special, expensive pearls, for which he actually does not yet have a legal permission, he is not a teenager, but in that époque – was it the nineteenth century, or even earlier?- men and women became “adults” in front of the law well above the age of eighteen or twenty one.
Philip and Rachel make love, at one point in an extraordinarily beautiful, splendid setting, in the forest, in the middle of a field of violet, wild flowers and it seems that all is going well between the two partners.
However, it is not wine and roses for this unlikely couple.
When the two have dinner with Kendall and the very beautiful, young Louise, Philip stands up for a short speech and he talks about his bliss, the fact that he wants the guests to share in his joy and announces that he wants to marry Rachel…
However, a coup de theater is taking place.
To the shock and horror of the hero-, the audience is also bewildered, for why did she have sex with him then? …all right, let use the modern mentality and stop for a while this descent into the middle ages and say that she had emotions and she was progressive, she felt she wanted sex, she had it, without consequences, as a free spirit and so on, but notwithstanding this argument, she was still not a hippy, ready to get intimate with anyone, was she? - Rachel is angry, even mad!
She calls to order the innocent, elated, enthused, mesmerized, in love, beguiled, hypnotized, exhilarated Philip and instead of showing some kind of gratitude- after all, this man wanted to share the rest of his life with her and expressed admiration not hatred- or at the very least, to act with politeness, to show some pity or better compassion, Rachel is fuming and thunderous:
“I have been in embarrassing positions in my life…
But I have never been so humiliated in my life, as I have been tonight!”
Oh my god!
What is wrong with this woman?!
This is what comes to mind, following this outburst.
Without getting into the consequent events, let us just say that the poor woman is paid back- if we take an Eastern faith point of view, the explanation might be summed up as- her bad karma, the negative actions and the harm, the terrible pain inflicted on a man who loved her, came back to reestablish the Ying and the Yang, the perpetual equilibrium…
The last part is more of a joke, not a real, sensible explanation, but the fact is that it seems this was, if not the climax, then the nadir of the plot, which offers some surprises, in a very watchable, interesting and intriguing film.