“Rachel, my torment. “
Do not expect to have a definitive answer at the end of the movie if Rachel is good or evil. You will leave pondering that question for some time and for good reason. She is an intriguing character, tormenting you as you sift through the lies and innuendos to find the truth.
I came into this movie unfamiliar with the outcome never having read the original novel by Daphne du Maurier. Clueless as to the ending, I was quite satisfied as I left the theater asking the other four patrons around me, “did she or didn’t she?” Their responses I shall keep silent.
If you’re a period movie junkie, no doubt you’ll be running to watch this suspenseful tale of a very different kind of woman. She, too, is a wonder woman of sorts, as you’re dragged along wondering about her motives through the entire film. It borders on the Gothic melodrama with enough suspense to keep you guessing.
It begins with the narration of Ambrose Ashley’s cousin and how he takes in Philip to raise him after his parents die. Ambrose is like a father to him, but he becomes ill and goes to Italy to “take in the sun.” (This is England, you know, dark, gloomy, rains a lot, has gray clouds, etc.). Ambrose writes often and eventually announces he has met a woman named Rachel, who he marries. When Philip receives a disturbing letter from his cousin, asking him to come to him, he leaves. By the time he arrives, his cousin is dead and Rachel has left. Thinking that she had inherited his estate and land, he is surprised to discover that his cousin left everything to him in an unchanged will, which he will inherit upon his twenty-fifth birthday.
Rachel finally arrives in England. Philip, determined to confront her on the allegations she may have poisoned his cousin, discovers a very different female than he anticipated. With a charismatic personality and beauty, he falls desperately in love to the point of obsession. He rewrites his will and leaves everything to Rachel — his inheritance, the estate, and all the family jewels.
The relationship between the two individuals unfolds in a strange way. The insinuation constantly lurks that she plans to kill Philip because she’s always brewing strange cups of tea that taste disgusting. Philip’s godfather warns him about her rather questionable character, but he refuses to believe anything until they begin to have contentious periods after she allows him to make love to her.
The film slowly unfolds but it is needed to build up the questionable suspense as the characters’ personalities are revealed and begin to interact. Beautiful daytime landscapes and candlelight in the evening add to the authenticity of the times. It feels period perfect in the sense of costumes and scenery, but it’s difficult to come to a clear conclusion of who Rachel is underneath the black veil.
It is fresh on the Tomato Meter with a fine performance from Rachel Weisz (as Rachel) and Sam Claflin (as Philip). Though some reviewers term it as a romance, I disagree with that analogy. There is no romance. He loves her but there’s no reciprocation on her part. It’s a questionable relationship between two very different people whose personalities don’t blend together in love. Instead, there is obsession and suspicion that makes for a surprise ending that you do not see coming.