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.




Their Finest (Movie 2017)

3 Kernels

With two theaters in town showing this film, I count myself lucky to have seen it.  Unless it’s distributed elsewhere, you could be missing out on a fairly delightful film.  Of course, had I written the ending to this story in any of my books, it would have been thrown against the wall by readers and trolls would have come out of the woodwork, one-starring me for revenge. Thankfully, I did not.

Their Finest is set in 1940 London, while citizens are dodging bombs, dead bodies, and curing everything with a hot cup of tea. Really — tea cures all of the world’s ills for the Brits.  Nevertheless, the citizens who “keep calm and carry on” are looking for uplifting entertainment, which the British Ministry of Information wants to provide.

Starring Gemma Arterton (playing Catrin Cole), who I haven’t seen on screen since she came out of the bathroom wall as Elizabeth Bennett in Lost in Austen, is the leading lady and heroine of the film. She is a writer (got to love those writers!) who is discovered by Sam Claflin (playing Tom Buckley) another screenwriter. She is hired to help write a movie script that glorifies the Dunkirk evacuation based on a semi-true story of two young ladies who take their father’s boat to join in the rescue of stranded soldiers.

Catrin purports to be married to an aspiring artist, living in squalor in east London. She finally lands a job as the screenwriter, while he continues to pursue his career. Unable to fight in the war due to physical reasons, her other half at least helps in the cause, searching for survivors in bombed buildings.

The wonderfully talented Bill Nighy (as Ambrose Hilliard), who you just love to pieces in this role, plays an aging actor who accepts a part in the movie. His humor and attitude are the lighthearted points amidst some the realistic and horrific scenes of dropping bombs in London. You may remember him in I Capture the Castle.

The cast and crew go off to Devon to film the movie, later coming back to London to finish other scenes on set.  Throughout the hours of screenwriting and working together with another writer, the three come up with a great film. In the meantime, Buckley begins to fall in love with Catrin, while her husband is off pursuing his artistic career with his first gallery showing.

Gemma Arterton and Sam Claflin are a good romantic team onscreen, making the audience wonder if or when they would fall in love and how they could be together.  Since I am not writing SPOILER here, I won’t go any further except to say bring your Kleenex.

The critics as a whole have been giving it fresh tomatoes, and the audiences seem to enjoy the film as well. Not many youngsters show up at these types of movies.  I can attest that the moviegoers I sat with were mostly middle-aged or elderly.

The film is based off a novel written by Lissa Evans, first published in 2009 by Doubleday. Another talented writer has been given a film option, while I drool in jealousy.  Excuse me, while I go fetch my copy of her book and throw it against the wall because of the ending. Perhaps it will help me feel better. (Forgive my humor.)  Keep calm and carry on.