Parents' Guide to

My Cousin Rachel

By Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Strong, complicated woman anchors intense mystery tale.

Movie PG-13 2017 106 minutes
My Cousin Rachel Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 18+

Based on 1 parent review

age 18+

Retro/Modern Feminist (?) Role

This film is aimed at a literate audience. Parents use caution with your young teens. Still, they may already may know more about the adult themes here than we'd really like them to. A fan of the earlier black-and-white film, I was eager to see this recent effort. Sam Claflin's Philip is younger and much less mature than Burton's characterization. His unfamiliarity with women makes the swift obsession with Rachel more believable. He's easy prey for a femme fatale, if that's what Rachel is. He's totally at her mercy. But what mercy is there? Philip has a petulant, entitled nature. He's full of rage and jealousy, the antithesis of real love. His inexcusable violence stems from inability to control Rachel, as men of 19th century Britain are supposed to do. He doesn't know how to attain a mature relationship with this most desirable woman. In their society, women are usually financially dependent upon men. Actress Rachel Weisz presents a "proper" feminine image - modest, self-effacing and gentile. Her underlying passion and desire for independence belie the outward mask. She's strong-minded and self-determined, willing to defy convention (at least privately) when it suits her. Rachel's alternating "come-hither" and "don't-touch-me" personas increase the mystery of her motives. Her stated intention to thank Philip for his kindness seems a very poor excuse for a sexual relationship, albeit a brief one. Mature, intelligent and well-intentioned women don't engage in sex out of pity or mere gratitude, especially with such an emotionally fragile partner. Surely Rachel recognizes Philip's utter infatuation with her. She knows (or should know) that their passionate night will intensify his obsession. The timing of their tryst is all the more questionable. Is Rachel ensuring access to his inheritance, not knowing that Philip has already signed it over to her? Once she learns of her new financial position, she's cold and unresponsive to him. Yet there's still a question as to her real motivation. Is she a clever poisoner, a black-widow killer? Or is Rachel simply a woman at odds with society's expectations of her? The questions drive the mystery of this somewhat sluggish drama . Last minute revelations, thrown in too late to change Rachel's fate, leave the viewer as uncertain as the not-very-sympathetic leading man. He has to live with the questions and with his guilty conscience. I'd like to know what Daphne du Maurier intended in her novel. Maybe I'll read it.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1 ):
Kids say (2 ):

Mysterious, deliberate, and nuanced, this slow-burning drama could well bore the pants off teens but holds enchantment for fans of Du Maurier and vintage British dramas. Expect candles, beds with draperies, bonnets, bumpy wagon rides, and scything -- as well as a modern-minded female character who may or may not be up to no good in pursuit of money. Weisz's Rachel is a complicated woman who alternately plies Philip with motherly and carnal attentions, for reasons the drama never quite makes clear. Is she pulling a con job in the most effective way possible, taking all of Philip's money while convincing him it's his idea? Or is she a sincerely grieving widow who's reeling from the aggressive attentions of yet another man who wants too much from her?

The long moments when characters sit slowly drinking tea, reading letters out loud, or tossing bales of hay around a barn make My Cousin Rachel's sudden, shocking scenes of sex and violence all the punchier. In between, it may seem like not much happens, but all the drama is in Weisz's expressive face and her presence, which is so strong that even when she's off screen, all the other characters are gossiping and/or speculating about her. It all builds to a shocking, enigmatic climax that won't settle any arguments about her character but will provide plenty of conversation after the movie's over. It's not showy, but it's riveting nonetheless.

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