Category: Victorian Era

My Cousin Rachel (Movie Review 2017)

Rachel4 Kernels

“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.

 

 

 

Bramwell (1995-1998)

4 Kernels
The Victorian Way of Life

Stars: Jemma Redgrave and David Calder

Type: British ITV Four Seasons (28 episodes)

Let’s get something out of the way. I love British TV. Seventy percent of what I’ll review has been filmed by the English. It fascinates me. They are great storytellers. Drama is their forte, as well as comedy–hands down.

Twenty-eight episodes later, you’ll be well educated in the Victorian way of life if you tune into Bramwell. I watched it originally on Netflix, but as you know stories come and go there. However, the DVD’s are available on Amazon.

The series is named after its main character, Dr. Eleanor Bramwell, a woman physician in 1895. Her father is a doctor, as well, and his daughter has decided to follow in her father’s footsteps. However, in 1895, women physicians struggled to be taken seriously by their male peers in the same profession. The series begins in a hospital, where after a heated argument with physician in charge, Eleanor embarks on opening a thrift medical center to treat the poor with the help of a financial supporter. Her father is appalled over the idea.

It’s here in this setting that the series embarks upon a variety of stories revolving around her patients and staff, interspersed with her home and social life in an upper-class environment. The medical cases are crude, such as treating women thought to be too hysterical by removing their ovaries to “calm them down,” to the early methods of surgery without the wearing of masks and sterile conditions. It’s a wonder anyone lived, frankly, through half the medical procedures. Nevertheless, it’s a time of learning and knowledge for the medical profession, even if they are still in the dark ages about some practices.


Overall the series is wonderful portrayal of Victorian life, manners, courtship, class differences, evolution of medical knowledge, and a woman’s place in society. Eleanor Bramwell is a feisty woman, who at times I wish I could knock up side the head. Her character is stubborn, independent, and bull-headed. However, she was born in a time when women were spreading their wings and demanding better treatment. Eleanor, however, is so opinionated in her vie for change, that she thinks she is always right – about everything. On the other hand, her treatment of the poor and attitude toward the sick is her redeeming quality.

Every other character that came and went throughout seasons one through three, were great additions to the story. Eleanor is unmarried, but has a main love interest in her life, another doctor. The man is frankly a scoundrel, as far as I am concerned. Even in all of her self-professed intelligence, Eleanor didn’t have an ounce of sense when it came to men.

Seasons one through three are wonderful. Season four falls flat on its face. Many of the main characters are gone, including her father. My suggestion is skip four, and save yourself the pain. It sorely lacks the brilliance of the first three. Read a synopsis instead to satisfy your curiosity.

If you like the Victorian Era, this is the series for you.

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