A Masterful Ambiguity: Weisz enchants in mysterious 'My Cousin Rachel'

Sam Claflin as "Philip" and Rachel Weisz as "Rachel Ashley" in MY COUSIN RACHEL. Photo by Nicola Dove. © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

My Cousin Rachel
4 out of 5 Stars
Roger Michell
Writers: Daphne Du Maurier (novel), Roger Michell
Starring: Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Iain Glen, Holliday Grainger
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Romance
Rated: PG-13 for some sexuality and brief strong language.

Synopsis: Phillip suspects that the mysterious Rachel (Rachiel Weisz) may have played a role in the death of her husband, the man who raised Phillip (Sam Claflin) as a son, but circumstantial evidence and a growing attraction to Rachel makes the truth incredibly difficult for Phillip to find.

Review: What makes “My Cousin Rachel” particularly enjoyable is its ability to keep the truth just out of reach. Of all the characters, only Rachel knowns who she is and what she has or hasn’t done. For everyone else, including the audience, her guilt or innocence is both supported and shrouded by a string of circumstantial evidence. It’s a testament to the strength of Daphne Du Maurier’s novel and director/writer Roger Michell’s strong adaptation that even as the credits roll there is plenty of evidence for both the defense and the prosecution.

Did Rachel kill her husband? Or did he die, as she claims, of a tumor that impaired his ability to think clearly and caused him to write letters accusing her of poisoning him?

I’m not sure the answer is nearly as important as you might think. In fact, the thrill of “My Cousin Rachel” is in the not knowing. It is a path of breadcrumbs that points to a fork in the road where some will turn right and others will turn left.

At its heart, “My Cousin Rachel” is a chamber play, which is to say that it has a limited number of characters (this isn’t a sweeping Jane Austin tale where we’re introduced to the various members of numerous families) and takes place in more confined space. Philip lives a rural existence and cares very little for social events. He’s not even particularly bound to the notion that he must marry, although his childhood friend Louise would like to think that she can change his mind. Unfortunately for Louise, it is the mysterious Rachel that, for better or worse, has Philip longing for companionship.

Yes, there’s no question that we, the audience, are being played. That the truth isn’t intended to be shown. We’re not given a complete picture, there is no road map to guide us to our final destination. Not that there isn’t an end to the journey, it just requires you, like the characters, to decide for yourself who Rachel is and what she is capable of.

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