MY COUSIN RACHEL – A BOOK TURNED INTO FILM

I first came across a copy of My Cousin Rachel when I was a teenager. I read the first page, in which the narrator Philip describes the scene of a hanging in the square, and decided the book was not for me. I was never one for reading or watching anything remotely macabre.

When a couple years later I read Rebecca, which is by the same author Daphne du Maurier, I fell in love with the Gothic Novel. So I picked up My Cousin Rachel once again and this time, I could not put it down before reading it through. Not only that, but the copy I’d gotten from the library happened to have notes on the novel at the back of the book and intrigued as I was by the open-ended story, I read through them all. As with any piece of literature that is more artsy than mainstream, this one too benefited from the additional information in order for the reader to better examine the narrative.

Fox Searchlight Pictures is now about to release a cinematic production of this tale, starring Sam Claflin and Rachel Weisz in the main roles, as well as Holliday Grainger and Iain Glen. Needless to say, I have already made a mental note of its release date and have viewed the trailers multiple times. For when a story makes an impression on my mind, it remains there for good.

Image above: Sam Claflin

Falling under multiple categories that include Mystery and Romance, this film is likely to be more commercial than the book and yet the teaser trailers and stills seem to indicate that the dark mood of the book has been translated into the film as well.

The story follows Philip Ashley, through whose eyes we view the tale. Orphaned at a young age, he is taken in by his guardian Ambrose, who is an older cousin. The two live in Cornwall but due to health reasons, Ambrose starts spending the winters in climates that are warmer than England. One winter, Ambrose travels to Florence and sends word to Philip that he has met and married an Italian cousin by the name of Rachel.

Image above: Rachel Weisz

In time, Philip starts receiving letters from his guardian that cause him concern. The older man starts complaining of ill health whilst his tone has changed too in describing his wife. Soon Ambrose is dead and Philip tries to piece the puzzle together. It is alright to hate Rachel and hail her a murderess when he doesn’t yet know her, but Philip finds himself falling under her spell once she becomes a guest in his house.

Torn between loyalty to Ambrose and the reality that he is falling in love with Rachel, Philip becomes not only confused but also an unreliable source of information as his version of things is subjective from beginning to end. There is much questioning in the book as well as an inconclusive and disturbing ending, which judging by the trailer will remain unchanged in the upcoming film. Yet whilst the bias is in favour of Philip in the text version due to his supreme say in all that the reader can see, it will be a very different case when the audience can view the scenes from an outside point of view. Still, is Rachel innocent or guilty? The answer to that we will never know.

The cast is made up of some brilliant actors who are sure to give this script their all, turning it into the masterpiece that the novel merits to be, whilst with Roger Michell both adapting the writing for filming as well as directing this eerie tale, we are sure to be in for what can only be a pleasant surprise.

My Cousin Rachel is set to be released in the UK and USA on June 9th and should start showing in Malta around the same time.