12A – 106mins – 2017
YOU BEFORE ME
Orphaned as a child and raised by his older cousin, Philip Ashley (Sam Me Before You Claflin) remains in written communication with his guardian when sickness calls for Ambrose (also Claflin) to sojourn to warmer climes in the winter. Ambrose informs Philip that while in Italy he has met and swiftly fallen in love with Rachel (Rachel Youth Weisz), a cousin to them both, whom he marries. But worrying insinuations and a despairing tone to Ambrose’s letters perturbs Philip, who journeys out to Florence expecting to find his frail caregiver at the behest of a beastly gold-digger.
Upon arrival, however, Philip is greeted by an empty house and informed by Rachel’s friend, Rainaldi (Pierfrancesco Favino), that Ambrose is dead, having succumbed to a brain tumour which may have disturbed his mind in his latter days. Immediately suspecting foul play, Philip is staggered to learn that Rachel was never added to Ambrose’s will, so his Cornwall estate will be inherited by Philip, upon his upcoming 25th birthday.
Returning home having never met his guardian’s widow, Philip receives word that Rachel is to visit England. Begrudgingly, he agrees that she may stay with him, albeit in the tattiest room, if only to flush out the truth of what he perceives to be her nefarious plans to ruin Ambrose. But when she arrives, Philip’s amassed hatred almost immediately dissipates, as he begins to fall in love with Rachel himself. Against the concerns of his godfather (Iain Glen), Philip happily begins to turn over money, jewels and the estate to Rachel, satisfied her motives are pure and his love for her reciprocated, but will Philip come to rue his trust in his cousin Rachel?
“Was she? Did she? Didn’t she?”
Adapted from unconventional romantic novelist Daphne du Maurier’s 1951 novel by Notting Hill and Enduring Love filmmaker Roger Michell, My Cousin Rachel is a beguiling, dark-hearted period piece dominated by an enigmatic gothic aura. The character’s happiness is persistently plagued by paranoia, jealousy and damning conspiracy theories, unravelling even pure relationships such as the potential ardour between Philip and his godfather’s patent -interested daughter, Louise (Holliday Grainger).
Despite a prevailing sombre mood (accentuated by some suitably grey-skied location shooting of misty English countryside), the intriguing narrative develops into an enrapturing mystery. Philip’s decent into an obsessed mania and Rachel’s straight-faced reservedness kept me as frustrated and helpless as the characters themselves. An unexpected climax left the answers as unresolved as they were at the beginning; we never will know if Rachel was a conniving temptress or Philip deluded by grief, but I am happy to saunter in that captivating ambiguity.
CR@B’s Claw Score: