Oscar winner Rachel Weisz stars in this period mystery set in Victorian England
“My Cousin Rachel” is based on the 1951 novel by English author and playwright Daphne du Maurier, and perhaps its mystery and intrigue is best left in the ’50s.
The setting is Victorian-era England, where Philip (Sam Claflin) awaits the arrival of Rachel (Rachel Weisz). Rachel is the widow of Ambrose, Philip’s beloved cousin, and Philip is sure Rachel played an integral role in Ambrose’s death. So begins a taut dance between Philip and Rachel as he tries to get to the bottom of her guilt or innocence.
Weisz plays Rachel in shades of grey; you’re never quite sure of where she stands, and that’s the point. The mystery compounds, but isn’t quite as delicious as writer-director Roger Michell (“Notting Hill”) intends; in a real world of double crosses and backstabbings and Shonda Rhimes shows, the subtleties of small glances and loaded double entendres in “My Cousin Rachel” just don’t cut it.
That said, this is a handsome period drama with rich costuming detail and lovely countryside photography. Besides the leads, Michell gets strong performances out of a stellar cast, including Pierfrancesco Favino as Rainaldi, Rachel’s mysterious Italian friend, and Holliday Grainger as a friend of Philip’s family.
The queries posed by “My Cousin Rachel” aren’t tidied up by the time the credits roll; there are lingering questions of intent and purpose and who meant what and for whom. There’s plenty to dig into. But good mysteries are only worth solving if the set-up leaves you craving answers, and “My Cousin Rachel” doesn’t beg to be unlocked. It’s easy to leave behind.
‘My Cousin Rachel’
Rated PG-13 for some sexuality and brief strong language
Running time: 106 minutes