3 out of 5 stars
Director Ben Wheatley (Free Fire) and writer Jane Goldman (Kingsman: The Secret Service) have put themselves in the firing line for inevitable comparisons. This creative pair have taken on a project that is based on one of the beloved novels of Daphne Du Maurier and has been done as an Academy Award-winning film by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho). Despite having a stellar cast and the financial backing of Netflix, this film will have to break free of its past to have a ghost of a chance during awards season.
Rebecca is a genre-bending tale that centres on the whirlwind romance of a young woman played by Lily James (Cinderella) and the tragically debonair widower, Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer). The couple meets in Monte Carlo where she serves as a lady’s companion for the nauseatingly spoilt heiress Mrs. Van Hopper (Anne Dowd) and Maxim is alone on holiday. Their love affair remains a secret throughout their stay until the ladies begin to leave to head back to America. In an emotional and sudden moment of passion, the two decide to get married and they find themselves travelling back to the De Winter family estate in England called Manderley.
Upon arrival at the beautiful home, it is quite evident that the feelings for Mrs. De Winter are not shared by the extensive staff. This is especially evident in the reaction by the head of the house, Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas). Their romance turns into a twisted series of events where the new bride must uncover the secrets of the past that seem to haunt the vast manor. She must find for herself why there seems to be an ever-present shadow of Maxim’s former wife, Rebecca, a presence that taints everything in their home. Each day brings a different discovery that pieces together the puzzling past of her husband and the influence that the former Mrs. De Winter had on him and the household.
Fans of the book and previous films continue to be swept away by this multi-layered romantic tragedy. It is no wonder that this celebrated storyline has been revived for a new generation to give it a fresh face and potentially a modern twist. What proves difficult for the creative team is to shed the voices of the past and allow this new version to speak for itself. With Wheatley’s past projects, one might think that he might infuse a few dark spins to reflect his signature method of direction, but he seems to have stayed true to the original narrative throughout the film. Which is not a bad thing for Daphne Du Maurier and Alfred Hitchcock’s devoted followers, but leaves this film a mere homage to the past as opposed to a breakaway statement for this generation.
The British director manages to deliver a hauntingly beautiful vision of the class narrative that will draw viewers into the world of Manderley. By delivering an array of cinematic angles that will pull the audience close to the edge of their seats with each bend in the storyline, he keeps the suspense alive. It allows for a few artistic changes for the sake of modern audiences, but still keeping to the heart of the drama that has given this tale life over the decades. Hammer and James manage to fill the roles of the leads well, but it is the convincingly vicious performance of Kristin Scott Thomas that anchors this screenplay through until the bitter end.
What Wheatley and Goldman’s version offers is a reintroduction of a classic to a new generation who may not appreciate the black and white shades of the 1940 original. Rebecca proves to stand the test of time and does offer something for modern audiences to enjoy. Even though the Hitchcock version does stand out as one of his best films, this interpretation manages to honour him and the Du Maurier novel well. It may not be a classic itself, but it does prove that well-written stories can transcend time and manages to resurrect themselves.
REEL DIALOGUE: How far can you take loyalty?
Loyalty is both fascinating and confusing. It is defined as being faithful to something on someone. People will put their money, careers and lives on the line for the sake of loyalty to family, friends or countries. In Rebecca, Mrs. de Winter takes the whole characteristic of loyalty to a new level. You will have to watch the movie to understand why, because this is a spoiler free review. Yet, her devotion to Maxim does beg the question, why do we choose to be loyal or faithful to someone else?
It seems to be rooted in wanting to place an implicit trust in the person we put our faith in and hoping that this loyalty will be reciprocated. The Bible plies a deeper meaning to the idea of loyalty. In the study of these words and evaluating human history, God is the only one that is completely faithful. He is faithful even when his followers are faithless. On the subject of loyalty, mankind's faithfulness can be fleeting, but with God we can find real loyalty and someone who is true to their word.
‘Loyalty remains even in adversity.’
Know that Yahweh your God is God, the faithful God who keeps His gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commands. Deuteronomy 7:9
If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is. 2 Timothy 2:13