Whenever a film adaptation of a novel is released I always plan to read the book before I watch the film version, but I rarely manage to do so. However, with My Cousin Rachel I actually finished the novel only two days before seeing the film at the cinema.
Philip Ashley lives on his cousin Ambrose’s estate in Cornwall, and while Ambrose is abroad in Italy Philip receives a letter from him informing him that he has married. However, a few months later Philip receives more letters from Ambrose that seem to suggest that his new wife Rachel is trying to kill him. After Ambrose’s death, Rachel arrives in Cornwall and Philip is determined to dislike her, but things aren’t that simple.
Rachel Weisz is fantastic as Rachel. She is sure of herself and knows how to use her sexuality to her advantage, all the while being completely unreadable and we are never sure whether she really is guilty or not. Sam Claflin is also very good as the innocent and naive Philip. The locations of the film is absolutely beautiful, both the scenes in Cornwall and the brief scenes in Italy.
Although in general this is a successful adaptation, as the novel was so familiar in my mind I was very aware of the few changes there were. Some changes I didn’t mind at all and could understand why they had been made, for example, sex between Rachel and Philip is only hinted at in the novel but is shown (to a certain extent) in the film, and although at the beginning I was a little unsure about the fact that we weren’t actually going to see Philip and Ambrose together (Claflin plays both) by the end I didn’t think that it was needed. However, there were some other changes that I felt made Rachel seem more innocent than she does in the novel, such as Philip finding the laburnum seeds outside rather than in Rachel’s room. Nevertheless, I thought this was a strong adaptation of the novel, and well worth a watch.