My Cousin Rachel is a classic costume drama which could easily have been a glorious BBC series, just right for that Sunday night slot. Letting your mind drift off in a story full of emotional elements such as love, passion, obsession, jealousy, suspicion and possibly murder.

Director Roger Michell (Notting Hill 1999, The Mother 2003, Enduring Love 2004) has done a fine job of adapting the Daphne Du Maurier 1951 novel of the same name.

Set in 19th century England, an orphan Philip, has been brought up by his much older cousin Ambrose who is the current Lord of the Manor running the estate somewhere in Cornwall, that employs most of the local village folk.

The pair of them have a special bond and Ambrose is the only Father figure he has ever known. As the years pass by Philip (Sam Claflin, Me Before You, 2016 and The Hunger Games – Mockingjay:Part 1, 2014)  grows up into a strapping clone of his guardian (Claflin also plays Ambrose in the short scenes with young Philip).

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Then Philip’s world collapses when Ambrose is taken ill and retreats to Italy to recuperate. In his absence, Philip steps-up to look after the estate and is guided by his Godfather Mr Kendall (played by the very watchable Iain Glen) whose daughter Louise (Holliday Grainger) has held a candle for Philip since they were children.

Ambrose sends regular letters to Philip and to his surprise one of the letters says that he has fallen in love with the wonderful Rachel and they intend to get married.

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Time passes and the contents of Ambrose letters become more strange ranging from Rachel being the love of his life to accusations of Rachel trying to poison him and begs Philip to come to his rescue.

Philip travels to Florence and reaches the chateau where he finds no sign of Rachel and is confronted with a flamboyant Italian gentleman Guido Rainaldi (Pierfrancesco Favino), who informs Philip that Ambrose has died of a brain tumour. Is Guido having an affair with Rachel?

On hearing this bomb shell Philip is enraged and convinced that this monster Rachel murdered Ambrose and now he wants revenge.

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Philip returns to England but it is not long until there is word of cousin Rachel has left Italy and is on her way to visit him at the manor. At this stage, Philip wants blood. He is expecting a fat moustachioed harpy but comes face to face with a beautiful and vulnerable woman.

At this moment, a third of the film has passed until Rachel Weisz makes her presence felt but from then on, Rachel commands the screen. Poor Philip is now doomed and under her spell and is infatuated with this angel. He is also extremely inexperienced with women and it’s not long before Rachel beguiles him and you can feel the sexual tension brewing.

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Did Ambrose have a fever that made him hallucinate about Rachel trying to poison him with her special herbal tea? Or is she a manipulating witch and will Philip be Rachel’s next victim?

Rachel Weisz is wonderful as the mysterious Rachel. I have never thought of her as archetypal pretty but she has this special presence and oozes sex appeal…I think it starts in those doe eyes then works down to that enigmatic smile.

Having said that, there is plenty here for the women as well. Sam Claflin is a fine figure of a man who plays Philip as a guardian of the people and as someone who doesn’t mind rolling his sleeves up and labouring with the workers. Unfortunately, Philip is blind to the lovely Louise played by Holliday Grainger.

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Also, you can’t go too far wrong with Daphne Du Maurier, no stranger to a few novel adaptations that have been made into successful movies such as 1938), Jamaica Inn (1936), The Birds (1952) and Don’t Look Now (1973).

The last time this novel was made into a successful film was only a year after the book was published in 1952, starring Richard Burton and Olivia de Havilland.

The ending may divide some of the audience but personally it’s made me want to read the book.

In cinemas June 9


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