Review: Rebecca

Armie Hammer and Lily James in Rebecca

Rebecca, based on the 1938 novel by Daphne Du Maurier, is a British retelling of the classic Gothic mystery. Back in my day, everyone read Rebecca in high school. Perhaps the current generation isn’t so familiar with the story. I’ll keep this spoiler free in case the tale is all news to you. The film is streaming on Netflix.

Lily James in Rebecca

The story centers around a young woman. She’s not Rebecca. We never learn her first name. She’s played by Lily James, who starts off the story as an innocent charmer, a woman’s companion for the unpleasant Mrs. Van Hopper (Ann Dowd).

She meets Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer). He’s a rich widower who owns a huge home called Manderley. Rebecca was his wife.

After spending only a week together, they marry and head to Manderley. The class difference between them is vast, but they expect love to overcome all odds.

Manderley is run under the iron fist of the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas).

That’s where it gets Gothic. Mrs. Danvers is downright creepy and keeps the memory of Rebecca alive. Mrs. Danvers is determined to drive the new Mrs. de Winter away. There are some spooky and nightmarish scenes as that plays out.

Mrs. de Winter isn’t a match for Mrs. Danvers at first. For a long time she is cowed by the housekeeper, the huge home, the array of servants, and the memory of Rebecca. This is the 1930s and our heroine is not a liberated woman, or a confident one when she’s married so far above her class. Only when Maxim is threatened does she show some spine.

The film boasts a great cast. In addition to the two newlyweds and the housekeeper, there is also Maxim’s sister Beatrice (Keeley Hawes), Rebecca’s cousin Jack Favell (Sam Riley), the Manderley manager Frank (Tom Goodman-Hill), and toward the end a police Inspector (Mark Lewis Jones).

If you’ve read the book or seen previous films based on it, I’m sure you’ll be making comparisons. However, taken on its own, the film is a credible retelling of the dark, Gothic mystery. Whether it’s the best or the worst of the versions of Rebecca is not something I can debate. It’s beautifully filmed with outstanding performances.

Poster for Rebecca

Have a look at the trailer.

Have you seen this one? What did you think of it?

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