Philip (Sam Claflin) is an orphan who was raised by his cousin Ambrose and is heir to his considerable estate. When Ambrose is taken ill he heads to warmer climates to recuperate and sends letters back to Philip of him meeting and falling in love with his cousin Rachel (Rachel Weisz). When his letters start to become paranoid suggesting Rachel is poisoning him, Philip rushes to see him only to find he has died and Rachel is gone. Later she arrives at his estate and whilst Philip plans to confront her, he becomes infatuated. But what really happened and is he in danger?
Based on a Daphne Du Maurier novel this is the second film adaptation of the story, the other starring Olivia de Havilland was made in 1952. Unfortunately I have not seen that version to compare, but I would be surprised if anything could beat Weisz performance in this version. She is phenomenally good in an otherwise indifferent film, one with a lot of potential, but not quite fulfilling it.
Weisz is able to keep us guessing at all turns, whilst being utterly believable as someone men would fall over themselves to please. Is she a femme fatale or is she misunderstood? The other beautiful aspect of the film is the cinematography, beautiful vistas of the Cornish coast and candle lit interiors make this a spectacle to watch.
Its weakness lies in the other characters and their chemistry. Claflin is fine as the naive Philip, but seems to share little chemistry with Weisz or Holliday Grainger who plays his long time suitor Louise. A little more frisson here and some more clarity as to Rachel’s motives and this would be a great, rather than good period thriller.