A young Englishman plots revenge against his late cousin's mysterious, beautiful wife, believing her responsible for his death. But his feelings become complicated as he finds himself fallin... Read allA young Englishman plots revenge against his late cousin's mysterious, beautiful wife, believing her responsible for his death. But his feelings become complicated as he finds himself falling under the beguiling spell of her charms.A young Englishman plots revenge against his late cousin's mysterious, beautiful wife, believing her responsible for his death. But his feelings become complicated as he finds himself falling under the beguiling spell of her charms.
It's a film about love and obsession, deception and survival. It's about the dangers of ignorance, especially when combined with arrogance. Ambrose Ashley was afraid of women, so he fenced himself and his young charge Philip into a world without them. Meeting Rachel became a self fulfilling prophecy for both men. Did she or didn't she? The answer became much clearer to me after the second viewing (which I highly recommend doing) that allowed me to pick up many more clues. The question remains, however, who is to blame. Philip was warned, not once but twice, albeit in a vague, 19th century appropriate language, about Rachel's penchant for promiscuity. Both times he was asked, "Do you understand?" Both times the answer was a blank stare. Had he actually understood, he may have still fallen for her, but at least he would have never equated her agreeing to have sex with him to accepting his marriage proposal. When you mistake a cougar for a house cat because you "know nothing" about the former, whose fault is it if it bites your head off?
I am by no means absolving Rachel. Even if we leave the poisoning out, she was after Philip sexually from the night she met him. "The butter is melting. You better lick your fingers." Yeah, right. Ever heard of napkins? Handkerchiefs? She carefully felt around Philip and Louise's relationship to make sure there's nothing there. And then she seduced him. As smitten as he was with her, I don't think it would have ever occurred to him to take their relationship there had she not done it. He was sincerely clueless about why he would ever need a woman in his life until he met her. Did she do it because getting to his money through his genitals was always her plan? Or did she just find him irresistibly good looking? Either way she seduced someone she knew was vulnerable with no intention of a relationship. Imagine if a man did that to a woman? Or maybe it really was just her way of thanking him? Maybe she did actually have feelings for him? That's what I liked the most about Rachel Weisz's performance in this film. On one hand Rachel the character is always acting, cold and calculating in virtually everything she says and does. Yet somehow something human manages to seep through. Before I knew it I was questioning what I saw and starting to feel for her.
Sam Claflin played Philip as a complete opposite. While Rachel (the character) seemed fake, Philip was 100% real. His feelings were genuine, his emotions - raw. While she was cold, he came across so alive, sometimes I felt I could reach to the screen and feel his warmth. It's a thankless part though. Philip had to be an open book to Rachel's enigma, because as a narrator he knew exactly how he felt while he could only guess what was going on in her head and heart. And he had to go from very sympathetic to rather pathetic. Although I never stopped rooting for him, had he remained completely likable, it would have been a lot harder to give Rachel the benefit of the doubt.
The chemistry between Weisz and Claflin matched perfectly the fluidity of Rachel and Philip's relationship. It sizzled when things were going well and disappeared as they became distant.
Whoever is to blame, in the end my heart ached for both of them.
- Sep 18, 2017