* Spoilers, yet again, spoilers *
And out on the day of its DVD release, I was chuffed to bits when this arrived. Based on the Daphne Du Maurier novel, this dark and gothic romantic drama is an absolute cracker.
Philip, an orphan, has been raised by his cousin Ambrose, who has not been in the best of health. When Ambrose is advised by his doctors to go abroad and seek out the sunshine to treat his illness, Philip receives word from him regularly, and gets to hear about the woman to whom Ambrose has lost his heart. Rachel is beyond stunning, she is the sort of woman for whom a man will lose his reason.
And then notes appear, secreted in the edges of Ambrose’s envelopes. He thinks Rachel is trying to kill him. She makes tea infusions that he suspects are poisoned. He begs Philip to come and rescue him. In a panic, Philip heads to Italy, only to find that Ambrose is dead.
When Rachel appears at the family seat in the westcountry, Philip, filled with venom and righteous indignation, and fully determined to extract his revenge, finds that she has the face of an angel, she has beauty and grace in spades; the dogs have followed her to bed, the serving staff think she’s lovely.
He begins to fall for her, and drink the tea. He throws over his godfather’s daughter, who has been pining for him for some time, he has a couple of bedroom-type encounters with Rachel, and plans to give her everything he has. The whole estate. So long as she remains a widow. If she remarries, everything returns to Philip.
She has a close friendship with a man from the Med, he has a rather intimidating moustache, and she speaks Italian with him at the dinner table.
This is very frustrating for Philip, who feels threatened, challenged, and cannot begin to understand what they are saying.
Driven mad by an obsessive love which, at his young age and relative inexperience, he is not prepared to understand, he seeks proof of Rachel’s duplicity. Philip refuses a cup of special tea, and tells Rachel that he wants to speak privately with his godfather’s daughter.
Rachel, heading out for a horse ride, sees the pain of feeling in his face, the heartache at knowing her can’t really have her, but she takes his advice to ride along the cliff path, for the promise of a sight of baby seals. Of course, Philip knows that the path is not stable but he is incensed. She will obviously leave him, fortune be damned, for the Italian.
Rachel rides out. Philip scours her room for evidence of her deception. It transpires that she has returned several jewels Philip gave to her. She has renounced any claims on the estate. The Italian is gay. And she’s riding along a precarious path, and a mite too fast. Philip grabs a saddle-less horse from the yard, and tears out after her.
Of course, he’s too late. She has fallen to her death. Her horse has to be shot.
Years later, Philip has started a family with his godfather’s daughter, and he still wonders whether Rachel was responsible for the death of Ambrose, or if it was all a terrible mistake.
And that’s the problem with obsessive love. It burns out really quickly, but the echoes can be felt for years.
Anyway, the film: it’s a belter. Stunning casting, beautifully shot, excellent locations, anything by Daphne Du Maurier is going to be dark and brooding and simmering with tension of all kinds, and Rachel Weisz is forty-seven.
I cannot get over that. I would have thought she was my age, no problem. Forty-seven, she puts me, and everyone I know, to shame.