Rebecca, a Netflix original film directed by Ben Wheatley, is set to be released this month. The film is based on the 1938 Gothic novel of the same name by Daphne Du Maurier. The film follows a young woman (Lily James), who while working as a companion in Monte Carlo, becomes romantically involved with handsome widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer). The two decide to get married and she moves in with Maxim to his family estate, which is called Manderley. Although she’s still quite naïve of the world around her, the woman begins to settle into this new environment with caution. She has a right to be cautious as she soon finds herself battling the memory of Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca. Though Rebecca has been dead for well over a year, her haunting memory is kept alive by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas).
It says a lot about the film to have the title character, Rebecca, not appear anywhere in the film but still having such an enormous presence in the story. Whether it’s through stories told by those who knew Rebecca, her legacy, and her death before the events of the film, she is an imposing figure. She is everything that the protagonist isn’t but she too manages to make an impact on Maxim’s life. The mystery that is Rebecca is the heart of the story while also serving as a way to bring out the importance she had on the people around her. Had Rebecca been given any scenes, her character’s overall effect of the lives of everyone in Manderley.
The chemistry between Hammer and James throughout the plot in Rebecca was fantastic. From the minute their characters are both on screen, it’s obvious that their characters belong together. The sense of curiosity that sparks from the woman’s interactions with Maxim played a major role in them becoming a couple. Their first full scene together wraps up with a montage of the countless hours that they were talking. Spending hours talking with one person without any interruptions is a sign of true affection between them. Once Rebecca’s presence becomes a bigger role in the film, Hammer and James’ characters are given room to fully express what and how they feel. Having only seen a handful of films that both actors have done, I was thoroughly impressed with how well they played off one another in moments of love and anger.
As the original novel is classified as a Gothic novel, there were a few moments of supernatural horror in Rebecca, which was quite surprising. Not knowing that this film was an adaptation, the trailer never really gave a sense that elements of horror would be in the film. Most of the moments of horror come from the woman’s dreams as they focus on Rebecca and the immense legacy she left behind. The woman’s worry is that she isn’t enough for Maxim, which horrifies her deeply. It gets to the point where her dreams begin to reflect the horror she feels from being haunted by Rebecca’s legacy. The fear of not living up to someone’s expectations is something that viewers can relate to, which may bring sympathy towards James’ character.
With a run time of 121 minutes, it would have made sense for Rebecca to have been a mini-series rather than a film. The film at times felt like it dragged on, which may have some viewers lose interest in what’s going on. There were also scenes that could have been expanded on, which is where making this into a mini-series would’ve been better. The first 30 minutes of the film that showed the woman and Maxim’s romance developing more set an entirely different tone than the rest of the film. Having an entire episode dedicated to that and then focusing more on their marriage would’ve been for the rest of the mini-series would’ve set a smoother flow of the story.
Knowing very little about the original novel or other adaptations, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Rebecca. Not having the titular character physically appear but still having her be a major force in the film was done extremely well. The chemistry between the two leads was great and never felt either rushed or forced for the sake of the plot. The surprising moments of horror were a real treat and elevated the film’s story. However, it could have benefited much more had it been made into a mini-series rather than a full-length film. I’ll surely be picking up the original film and see how the two compare.
Rebecca is set to be released in theaters and on Netflix on October 21, 2020.
Knowing very little about the original novel or other adaptations, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Rebecca. Not having the titular character physically appear but still having her be a major force in the film was done extremely well. The chemistry between the two leads was great and never felt either rushed or forced for the sake of the plot.