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Review: Norwich actor Sam Claflin stars alongside Rachel Weisz in Du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel

PUBLISHED: 08:55 09 June 2017 | UPDATED: 09:00 09 June 2017

Norwich actor Sam Claflin as Philip and Rachel Weisz as Rachel in My Cousin Rachel. Picture: Nicola Dove/Fox Searchlight

Norwich actor Sam Claflin as Philip and Rachel Weisz as Rachel in My Cousin Rachel. Picture: Nicola Dove/Fox Searchlight

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Ambiguous did she or didn’t she thriller is well made and filled with good performances but a bit small scale making its conclusion not really seem like enough.

Sam Claflin as Philip and Holliday Grainger as Louise Kendall in My Cousin Rachel. Picture: Nicola Dove/Fox SearchlightSam Claflin as Philip and Holliday Grainger as Louise Kendall in My Cousin Rachel. Picture: Nicola Dove/Fox Searchlight

My Cousin Rachel (12A)

***

The opening line of Roger Michell ambiguous thriller poses a question: “did she or didn’t she?”

It’s a very good question. It and its variations – Is He or Isn’t He/Are They or Aren’t They/Was It or Wasn’t It – have been the basis of many a fine entertainment. But there is an inherent problem with all these stories: somehow, you never really get a satisfactory answer.

In this adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s 1951 novel, the question is whether Rachel (Rachel Weisz) is a conniving merry widow who murdered her husband in Italy and is trying to seduce his heir Philip (Norwich actor Sam Claflin) into meekly handing over his estate to her, or is she genuinely in mourning.

Director Michell has had a varied and often impressive career since Notting Hill, usually failing in his American project but making British films that seem thoroughly British, except in the way they are uncommonly good. Here though he is rooted in the traditions of the costume drama.

He has written the adaption himself and has done a skillful job of it. The most difficult part surely was making Claflin’s meek acquiescence to Weisz’s charms seem credible. I’m not sure he quite succeeds but he does at least subtly imply that he is man who is terrified of women and wary of anything he doesn’t know. Watch his look of disgust at the sight of two people talking Italian.

It is a very decent adaptation but there isn’t a whole lot here to fill the time. The house is stately, and so is the pace. Did she or didn’t she is a good question, but that is all it has got. A piece of evidence suggesting her guilt is presented before being rebutted by some evidence against with Weisz as a sphinx like presence in its centre, never letting down her guard.

After a while this balancing act of credibility becomes all a bit frugal and small scale and though the conclusion is much more than you’d expect, it doesn’t really seem like enough.

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