My Cousin Rachel Movie Ambiguity Explained
My Cousin Rachel is a low key, slow boil movie, with an intriguing right hook of an ending. It's definitely worthy of a conversation anyway.IMDB
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Reader Rating: (9 Votes)

I am not necessarily the Downton Abbey type. I mean, I am. But not necessarily so.

Let me come in again.

Just because a movie is all skirts and lace doesn’t mean it isn’t awful.

Nope, that was even worse than my former intro.

Ok, how about this? Just because a movie is a period piece doesn’t mean that it can’t be a mental mindjob through and through. Yeah, that’s better. I mean, look at Lady Macbeth! That is exactly the sort of movie we have here with My Cousin Rachel. And I even enjoyed Lady Macbeth so much that I compiled a list of movies similar to it. Which, I probably ought to add My Cousin Rachel to that list retroactively.

The bottom line is, no matter how a movie is dressed up, or what genre it finds itself ensconced in, there is always the potential that it might right hook you out of left field. (Wait, what? I have no idea.) And that’s what we have today with My Cousin Rachel. I honestly didn’t expect it to be a film I would talk about here. But here we are!

Generally, the movie is about Ambrose Ashley, an owner of a large estate who is caring for his orphaned cousin Philip. Ambrose, through an illness, heads off to Italy to convalesce. Being single his whole life, Ambrose had never concerned himself with the need for a wife. But Philip begins getting reports back that Ambrose is in love… oh, and then dead. The entirety of the movie is 100% about the ambiguity between that love bit, and that dead bit. Have you seen it?!? Do you realize what you are missing here people… here, watch this:

HERE BE DRAGONS!!! I mean, spoilers.

Deep Dive On My Cousin Rachel

So, because this movie is so good, and because basically all I do here on THiNC. is spoil movies for people… I plan to walk you through what actually happened in this movie, and then I’ll walk you through what happened in both Phillip’s head, and Rachel’s head. Ok? Because that’ll be the only way to get to the bottom of what actually happened in this movie. Got it? Good. So what that means is, if you’ve not seen this movie… respectfully depart. Thanks. (But then come back in all haste. [Said in my best British accent… which is a decidedly convoluted mix of Michael Palin and John Cleese doing their old woman accent…])

I’m sorry. Where was I? Oh yes. Rachel.

As I said in the intro, the movie concerns itself on this whole Rachel business. Because Rachel is the woman that “Fell In Love” with Ambrose while he was in Italy. While receiving the letters from his guardian/father Ambrose, Phillip began to get a very shady feeling about this Rachel woman whom Ambrose had “fallen in love with.” Some of his letters were frightened. Others euphoric. And so, being concerned, Phillip books it (as fast as a non-plane invented epoch can book it) to Italy. And when he makes it to the villa Sangalletti, he learns that Ambrose has already died. Not only that, but Rachel has left the villa. Like, gone gone. And so Phillip departs, and heads back to Cornwall. But soon after he gets back he gets a letter via his godfather Nick (who has a beautiful daughter, who, apparently, Phillip is supposed to marry once he gets a clue and realizes it) which tells him two things. The first is that they now have the death certificate, and it states that the cause of death is a brain tumor. Which is important because Philip assumed he was murdered, or something. And secondly, that Ambrose had never changed the will in Rachel’s favor……. so duh, Phillip is still the heir.

Better yet!? Rachel is coming. But Ambrose is certain she will be an evil witch. And of course, Ambrose and Rachel immediately are smitten with each other in spite of the fact that Phillip has never taken a second glance at a woman in his life. Along the way Phillip gets another letter from Ambrose, written before he passed away, talking about Rachel’s carelessness with money and that maybe, just maybe, she might be trying to poison him. Or something. (We’ll get to the or something in due time. Chill the flip out.)

Heading into the moment when he would receive the entire estate as his own, on his 25th birthday, Phillip attempts to give a necklace to Rachel, but alas, is rebuffed by Nick & Co. But on his 25th birthday, Phillip gives her everything. The jewels, the estate, everything. Even in spite of the fact that she was seriously overdrawn against the allotment he’d given her previously. Phillip and Rachel make love, and all is well in the world of Cornwall. But Phillip places a clause in the will, that if Rachel ever marries, everything would revert back to himself. Because… you see… duh… he figured, Rachel would obviously want him, and that she wouldn’t care if the money was hers, or his… but that the money would slosh from him, to her, to him again, in one big happy love fest.

This kid is a right idiot.

REGARDLESS, that night with Nick and his daughter, and Rachel, Phillip decides to profess his love for her and to ask Rachel to marry him. Welp, that doesn’t go as expected. And Rachel leaves. Eventually Phillip falls ill, and he’s in and out of his raving stupor, and eventually comes to. Rachel has taken care of him, giving him special tea to help him get better. But Phillip flips into paranoia mode, and realizes that the same thing that happened to Ambrose was happening to him. She was poisoning him. Has to be.

Jump to the ending, and Rachel heads out for a horse ride before heading down to London, and Phillip recommends the cliff pass. Well, that wasn’t nice of him at all, because he knew that that pass was completely unsafe. And sure enough, Rachel and her horse, fall to their deaths.

Cut to, Phillip and Louise (Phillip’s Godfather’s daughter) happily married and with child.

Fade to black.

My Cousin Rachel Unhinged

So the magic of this film (and the book, though the ending of the book is a bit different… by that I mean, Rachel doesn’t die from falling off a cliff but rather from walking on an unstable garden trellis. Had to read the book the moment the movie was over. Yes, I may have done that the wrong way round, but oh well) is that the truth of what was really happening balanced upon the blade of a knife. Was Rachel unraveling Phillip in order to fleece him of his money? Or was Phillip a paranoid schizophrenic? I think the only way to figure it out? Look at the events from both character’s perspectives.

Philip’s Vantage of What Happened in My Cousin Rachel

Philip, an orphan, was loved by Ambrose. Ambrose had zero need for women. But, falling ill, he heads to Italy and falls for a woman. The letters tell everything anyone would ever need to know about what happened! Ambrose wrote it with his own hand. Rachel was after his money! Her herbs and teas were poisoning him! He was obviously murdered by his wife.

But when she arrives at their home, Philip forgets all that and is instantly smitten with this dowager Queen of a woman. Right? But soon enough he remembers the letters. The Dowager has refused the overtures of love and marriage! And now, suddenly that she has the property and the jewels, Phillip is falling ill? Could it be the teas and Rachel’s vast knowledge of plants? Could it be that Rachel is striking him dead slowly but surely? And what of this Italian that she keeps returning to? Are they a pair, a duo bent on misfortune!? They must be!!! So, obviously, she is a villain that needs to die. And so it makes perfect sense that Phillip would direct Rachel to the cliff path for her ride. Obviously it would make sense.

Rachel’s Vantage of What Happened in My Cousin Rachel

Rachel was happily content with her gay friend Rainaldi and her villa in the warm countryside villa Sangalletti. The spend the time making fun teas and catching butterflies. When all of a sudden, Ambrose, a down on his luck, pale skinned Englishman, that is ill from some sort of British drama epidemic. So why don’t we take him in, make him tea, and woah! He fell in love with me?!? Wha? He’s proposing? Well ok!?

In the meantime, Ambrose, do come hither and tell me of the hillocks and the various named copse of trees about your estate, so that I will recognize them when I finally get there! Wha!? Ambrose is getting worse? More tea! Fetch the doctor! And please don’t yell at me Ambrose, I am only attempting to help you get better!

Cut to dead Ambrose, and a journey to England to see the land of my departed love’s life. And who is this boy that is so pouty and forlorn? He looks exactly like Ambrose. He’s the spitting image. And WHAT? He fell in love with me too? Well, ok, I’ll have a necklace, but only because it will make you happy. And the teas? They are especially made to remind me of Ambrose, and to show you my love for all things Italy. Nothing more. And sure, Phillip, I get it that you don’t like Rainaldi Phillip… so I’ll keep him out of the way in the town. Have I MENTIONED LATELY THAT HE’S GAY? And now you’ve fallen ill my dear platonic Phillip? Man. Some girls have all the horrible luck. I guess I’ll go for a ride and lick my wounds. Where should I go Phillip? The cliff path you say? Ok…

Theories that Explain My Cousin Rachel

I think the views about this movie fall neatly in a couple of camps. The Pro-Phillip camp. The Pro-Rachel camp. And the final theory would maybe be an amalgam, Life Is Messy view that maybe lands somewhere in the middle. But with this movie, I think we got a bit of evidence that decidedly answers the question as to which theory is at work here.

At the end of the movie, we see a scene, where Phillip and Louise are happily riding in the estate’s carriage. They are bedecked in radiant outfits, and are lacking for nothing. How could this be? The only way is if Rachel didn’t actively redirect the estate away from Phillip. But that was what Phillip and Nick, and Louise were all worried about. Rachel was seriously overdrawn. She was sending money out of the country! Ack! She was burying the family in debt to send the cash of the Cornwall estate out to the marauding Italians! But wait, Rainaldi turned out to be gay, and nothing but a friend. And this invisible threat from the Italians never materialized. And better yet, Rachel didn’t actually craft a will to take away the estate from Philip. She didn’t siphon off the estate’s money. She didn’t sabotage him actively. But why would that be? She was trying to kill him, wasn’t she? Or not.

One of the things that I really enjoyed about this movie was the right hook at the end. The surprise twist. No, in fact, Rachel wasn’t trying to kill you. And you know what? You are actually the one that is going insane. You are the one with a brain tumor and a madness that makes no sense. The worst bit? Phillip is the murderer in this tale. He knowingly sent her via the cliff trail. Knowingly sent her to her death. And so that final scene that we see with the carriage? That is just a dark reprieve from what Louise is about to realize about her prince charming, Phillip. And it isn’t going to be good.

I don’t know, Did Rachel kill Ambrose? Is Phillip innocent? Thoughts?

Edited by, CY

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39 Responses

  1. Nene

    I agree with your conclusion taylor. Through out, the movie focused on Philip’s perspective and feelings making the viewer believe he was being duped. On hindsight even the unreasonable passion he felt must have been also due to his illness. This made those around him who loved him suspicious of rachel’s motives. His sudden love and passion for Rachel was the first clue that he was unstable. But by the end of the movie it is clear he is the villain. It is a sad and uncomfortable insight into the confusion mental illness can cause an individual.

    • Taylor Holmes

      Hey Nene,
      Yeah – I buy what you are selling. Now it is true that guys can be quite quick to go all wobbly in the knees when it comes to Rachel Weisz, I know where you are coming from. The entire exchange was so dubious. I HATE THIS WOMAN, SHE KILLED MY FATHER! I HAAAAAaattteee, actually, never mind. By the way, that quick turn is in the book as well. So, it’s built into the DNA of the story.

      It was a good story, I really was shocked by the switch at the end. But if you think about it for even a second you see through what is happening really quickly.

  2. Tara Stuart

    So, I read My Cousin Rachel in the 1960s and recently found a copy in my branch library. I re-read it in a day and a half, and then looked up reviews on Amazon. Back in the mid-century there was a movie by that title starring Richard Burton and Olivia deHavilland but I wasn’t curious to see that movie. Now I see that Rachel Weisz (wife of the current James Bond) portrays Rachel Ashley. I have checked out the teasers in this Taylor Holmes website. Great job: I will get the DVD soon.

    Now, in the book, Ambrose is not Philip’s dad, but his uncle, who reared him when his parents died. Also, Rainaldo isn’t gay in the book. Nice twist in the Rachel Weisz film. I haven’t yet checked out reviews of the de Havilland version but am sure that because “back in the day,” none dare said “gay” and gay guys and gals were bad or villains–being LGBT was thought of as a disease! Jeez…

    Anyhow, the most important reason I am pro-Rachel is that the vindictive, callow Philip tells Rachel to only “have a care…” She asks “why, of what?” and he says slowly, “Uh, of walking beneath the sun.” How stupid is that? She was raised under the Tuscan sun! So she laughs and he lets Rachel walk (in the book) or ride (in the 2017 film) towards her death.

    When he and Louise find out (in the book) after criminally breaking into her desk in a letter from Mr. McCouch thanking her for turning in the family jewels because they belong to the English estate and then reads Rainaldo’s note in English telling her to “bring the boy along (to Italy) if you must,” Phil is anguished and realizes he just sent her to a dangerous area. So Rainaldo wasn’t Rachel’s lover after all. Phil tries to get to her but alas, too late. In the book, no Louise, no kid, just repeating the first sentence in the book. Sad! So that is plainly why I am pro-Rachel, book or film, as to her innocence. She wasn’t the villain, Phil by his obtuse jealousy ended up being the cause of her downfall. When re-reading Chapter 1, the pieces fell together and it was as plain as day to me. There is no “did she or didn’t she?” as far as I can see.

    Daphne du Maurier remains one of my favorite authors. I am a Rebecca and Jamaica Inn fan as well.

  3. Εleni Sam

    So in 18th century women with character who try to define themselves and and do what they really want should be rare. they are witches or seaking money or murderers and use their charm against great landlords in order to destroy them. I havent read the book but I suspect the writter is a woman. Through english literature of this period of time even though in surface there is a love story there is also a lot of critism of the position of women in the society in mariage and in family and many female heros struggle to fullfill themselves and earn some independancy. I thing Rachel is one of them.

    • Taylor Holmes

      Yes, the author of the 50’s book was a woman. And yes, it could very well be that the point she was making was the same as you were saying. She’s saying of COURSE we pin the blame on the independent woman. Of course she’s the murderer, except she wasn’t. So what does that say about us, as a culture? What does it say about our predispositions and our assumptions even today, let alone 50 years ago, let alone 150 years ago.

  4. Sandra Beltrao

    The film version with Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton is one of my all-time favorites, and more faithfully reflects the romantic ambiguity of the novel. I have to say this modern version killed the story for me by rendering the misunderstandings between Ambrose and Rachel as frustrating and implausible.

    Rachel’s mystique is her undoing, not Ambrose’s jealousy. She is a woman ahead of her time, who will not live by the rules of society. Perhaps if she’d sat down to explain all this to Ambrose instead of leading HIM up a garden path, they might have lived happily ever after. But then, we wouldn’t have this delightful classic of a story which still confounds us to this day!

  5. Cathy Kiepura

    I just saw My Cousin Rachel on dish and I thought the ending with Louise in the carriage, actually implicated Louise as complicit in Rachel’s death. Phillip wasn’t good at learning as stated in the beginning of the film. Louise “translates” Rinaldi’s note to Rachel for Phillip. I took it as she mis-translated it on purpose so he would at last be hers and not Rachel’s. When Phillip’s voice over repeats the “did she or didn’t she” line, they focus on Louise across from him a little too long. This hints that he could be asking the question about Louise, in addition to Rachel.

  6. Sandra Beltrao

    Interesting take but I don’t recall Louise mis-translating anything. If anything, her translation has the opposite effect by confirming to Ambrose that Rachel loved him all along.

  7. Angela

    I also thought the same thing about the long focus on Louise.

    Also, did anyone consider that Rachel purposely planted those letters with intent on making Philip looking like a mad man? There is a scene that shows Philip entering a room and hiding a letter.

  8. Gail

    Since the original story was plagerized we must better ubderstand tge original in order tyo understand Rachael. The original story revolves around the character of Mariana, a young woman who has married the widower Roberto Steen. As Mariana attempts to acclimatise to her new marriage and responsibilities, she discovers that Steen’s dead wife, Alice, still seems to have a hold over the household.
    So…what was the story of Alice?

    Maybe Alice has inhabited the second wife’s body. Maybe Alice had the adopted baby…who is, of course, the minion of the Protagonist (Rachael). Therefore…the inhabited body would have two different personalities, both Rachaels and Alices. And lover boy would love both women – one as a biological mother, and one as a sext step mother.

  9. Rose

    Louise may or may not have mistranslated the note – but the larger point may well be that Philip is constantly flailing around in response to things other people say. I have been thinking about this movie since watching it last night and have come to this conclusion: Rachel was innocent. We are overlooking the most important fact of all: Once she had it in her power to do so, she did not throw Philip out. Cliche as that would have been, it would have been the obvious course of action, particularly once she (allegedly) grew frightened of him.

  10. Whitney

    No they are both a$$holes. I lay the blame on her. She is an older woman, she is educated and she lives in the time period knowing how to behave and what is right and expected. So the first sign that this boy starts to show he likes you…yea you leave or shut him down immediately. But no you take his inheritance and play along. Women know how to play men i mean every woman knows her man especially if you are older. And you know when they like you. She was not innocent at all. He was a child who never fell for a girl she knew better. But yes phil was a bit unstable the minute he offered the necklace i woulda left quick. She was a douche and he was an immature virgin who finally looked at a woman. first love makes you crazy.

  11. Terry

    As mentioned, yes, Rachel is a ‘modern’ woman. She will take a lover if she wishes, & not feel guilty. But Phillip is “a boy”: he’s a lousy lover. The last time in the woods when he gives a 30-second slam, bam, thank you ma’am.. Rachel is thinking, “Is that it”? I think she has had worldly Italian lovers, and can’t imagine dreary sex with Phillip. But she still is fond of him, attracted to him. As for “did she or didn’t she?” Isn’t that the unsettling tension of the film the ambiguity? Maybe he has a brain tumor, maybe migraines. And the lengthy final shot focused on Louise introduces another ambiguity. Is Louise complicit? She seems to have a smug, self-satisfied smile as though she finally won & captured the prize; i.e., Phillip. The repetitive theme of the film is the ambiguity. And I can’t believe they don’t give Weitz a final dying scene (as in the book & prior movie) to show her puzzled confusion, underscoring the ambiguity.

  12. Sandra

    I certainly feel Rachel is a tease and a natural seductress (even the dogs love her) but she doesn’t leave because she loves Ambrose. In this film version, I did feel they missed the whole ‘of only’ aspect of their hot-to-trot relationship. And, yes, a final shot of Rachel would have underlined their mutual love and ultimate loss. As another commentator pointed out, ambiguity (and I would add Rachel’s mystique) is at the heart of this story yet in this film version, Rachel and Ambrose are too literal and awkward to deliver that ambiguity/mystique. Olivia de Havilland nailed it in the original film.

  13. Rose

    I am reading the book. I am going to have to rewatch this movie AND the original! But here’s a question: Did Philip tell Louise when he nearly fell? If he did, then she would have known he was putting Rachel’s life at risk, telling her to ride along the cliff path. I’ll have to go back and look at that, but maybe someone else remembers.

  14. Jenna

    It was clear in the final 5 seconds of the film that Louise and Nick were the villains of this story. Their motive from the beginning was for Louise to marry Phillip for the estate. Phillip commented early on the everyone assumes he will marry Louise. Nick was the one acting suspicious about Rachel and told Phillip he “asked around” about her. He clearly made her out to be a dishonest money hungry liar. Nick planted the letters from Ambrose to make him believe Rachel was the dangerous one. I think Louise lied about Rachel’s visit to their house on Phillip’s birthday and she had something to do with the poisoning. In the carriage during the last scene Phillip said he is still suffering from headaches, not the lasting effects from Rachel, but the ongoing effects of Louise. Her face in the final scene said it all.

    To me this film was just barely average until the last scene where all was subtlety revealed. I love films where one moment causes you to think back on the whole film with a different perspective. Louise got everything she wanted and her hands are clean.

  15. Cathy Kiepura

    Louise was definitely determined to be Phillip’s wife. She was very wifely when helping him clean the house for the new arrival. And she made is clear to Rachel that the jewelry belonged to the “estate” not the individual who was wearing them (i.e. Rachel). She had her eye on everything that was destined to becomes hers by marriage to Phillip.

  16. Rose

    While I agree that Louise’s behavior definitely warrants scrutiny, I have started reading the book to answer the central question of whether or not Rachel is “guilty”. If she is not, the logical conclusion (given the headaches at the end) is that Philip is suffering from mental illness brought about by the family tumor. (It also killed Ambrose’s father.) While the movie’s creators could have chosen to go in a different direction from the book, I am hopeful that reading the book will illuminate some of the issues we have been discussing. And so they have. I am maybe 50 pages into the book. Philip has just sent for Rachel, so they have not yet even met. He narrates the book, and it is my firm conclusion that his mental illness fairly jumps off the page. There are 2 or 3 instances on every single page of his mental instability. I believe the author had Philip narrate the book so that we could see what he could not about the unhinged workings of his mind. Unwarranted suspicion (also at play in Ambrose’s mind, if this path is correct) is an especially strong characteristic. Thus far in the book, Louise (and Louise alone) has supported Philip’s ramblings about Rachel murdering Ambrose. Her actions are definitely worth scrutinizing. But if she pushed Philip over the edge, it was an edge he was already teetering on.

  17. Jerry

    Hmmm…if not guilty, then why the ending line of I’m sorry as she rides off to her death?

  18. Derek

    Well, there is one theory that has not been mentioned. The look louise calmly gives to Philip whilst he is daydreaming at the end whilst travelling in their fine garbs could sum up the theory that him feeling ill began after he was professing his love for Rachel to Louise. Could louise have been poisoning Philip because she was upset with the prospect of not marrying someone she spent her life chasing. Her look at the end could be viewed as one of victorious content.

  19. Natalia

    This movie is so confusing and interesting at the same..I have not read the book but I have watched twice this last version movie and after reqding all your comments can not figurate it out still… im gonna have to watch it a 3rd time to check on all your observations… never would guess louise would be the villin here but now im considering!!! But dont you think is a little over the top that he has the same illness as the uncle?! I mean come on….

  20. Nat

    This movie is so confusing and interesting at the same..I have not read the book but I have watched twice this last version movie and after reqding all your comments can not figurate it out still… im gonna have to watch it a 3rd time to check on all your observations… never would guess louise would be the villin here but now im considering!!! But dont you think is a little over the top that he has the same illness as the uncle?! I mean come on….

  21. Nat

    Louise was definetely not involved here… otherwise why she would read the note on Rachel’s favor, while Rachel was going towards the cliff?!

  22. Nat

    Louise was not the bad guy here After watching it 4 times Im sure!

  23. Rose

    Once I finished reading the book, all was clear. Louise was definitely NOT a bad guy. Nor was Rachel. That is very clear. Philip, through whose eyes the tale is told, is mentally unstable. I’m thinking he’s bipolar and also starting to develop mental issues due to the family brain tumor. (The genetic history is downplayed in the movie.) As the film is based on the book, I have come to the definite conclusion that Rachel was innocent and Philip mentally ill. There’s really no question. And, yes, I rewatched the movie after finishing the book. Interestingly, the actor who portrayed Philip said that it was easy because the character was immature, having a “hissy fit” whenever things didn’t go his way. I read that before rewatching the film. That may have been how he played him, but that is not the Philip I got to know in the book. He was a good deal more complex than merely having “hissy fits”. I highly recommend reading the book. It’s an enjoyable read.

  24. Dez

    I think I may be alone here but I definitely think Rachel was the villain. Here are some facts that we simply can’t ignore. 1) the day after the uncle dies Rachel disappears without so much as a letter to his family of his demise. Odd. Maybe she was pissed after realizing the revised will wasn’t signed. 2) someone who claims to be distraught over losing their husband then seduces his nephew. Again not the actions of someone who is in pain despite her crocodile tears. 3) the minute he signs over his wealth to her, her affections immediately shift. Being MIA on his birthday and giving him a crappy gift when you’re sending loads of money to Italy. Selfish.
    4) the minute she wakes up from their love making her first thought it to get clarification on the line item in the transfer of wealth. Odd and cold. This shows the money was on her mind the minute she woke up. And not her future with him. She could’ve at least let a couple of days pass.
    5) he only begins getting sick after drinking the tea SHE serves him and is adamant about him drinking it. 5) his uncle suspects the tea is poisoning him. Huge coincidence
    6) she cautions Louise against drinking the tea meant for him. Almost like she knew it was poisoned.
    7) there are rumors of her cheating ways and spending habits. Which reinforces her love for money and potential infidelity which may have triggered her desire to poison his uncle in the first place. To silence him.

  25. Golden_Wing

    I too have noticed only at the very end of the movie that it was Louise & her father who might have been behind the poisoning of Philip, & attempts at trying to turn Philip against Rachel. It could also have been the director’s intention of trying to make the truth seem obscure by focusing in on Louise at the end, as a tactic to confuse the viewers.

    If this was the director’s intention, then I am definitely pro-Rachel. I believe in the era the film plays off, men were not as accepting of independent women, a role Rachel pursued relentlessly. Philip, I feel, felt insecure about this & drove himself mad with his deep desire & obsession with Rachel. Her independence & maturity was probably what made her different & attractive to him.

    She might have been a bit of a seductress, but I don’t believe she used her sexuality as a tactic to gain anything, as it was made quite clear that she didn’t want the riches Philip insisted she should have. The letter Philip reads in the end before Rachel’s death supports this.

  26. immabadkitter

    yes, I agree with you. Phillip turns out to be the real villain in this movie. Just look at his face in the last part of the film. I see no remorse in him. Poor Louise and kids.

  27. Paula Godley-Mack

    Like life no one can be marked as the complete villain or innocent. They all had motivations that led their behaviors. To have her independence, Rachel used beauty to get her access to independence, Phillip, naive and mentally ill, used his wealth to acquire Rachel’s love, and Louise wanted what society deemed as the pinnacle existence for a woman at that time. I don’t know if Rachel was poisoning with the teas but she could have. And I do not believe Louise or father were lying about the rumors as Rachel defied the period standards of chastity. If you believe someone is poisoning you, you may steer them on a dangerous path in hopes they will kill themselves, even though you know there is a chance they may survive. If I saw my husband suffering from a headache I may smile, not as in I am victorious, but as I hope this is a passing trifle and sort of an encouraging smile. Though I am certainly going to say in the movie, it threw me in that I kinda trust none of the characters, including Philip and especially Rachel because he tears did appear to be crocodile in nature.

  28. Chris M.

    I believe the story is meant to be ambiguous intentionally so I will give my take. I think Louise and Nick were suspicious of Rachel but not malicious. Louise loved Phillip and wanted Rachel out of the picture but she also let Phillip make his own decisions. Nick was weary of Rachel as he should be as guardian. Anyone in there two positions would be concerned about who this woman Rachel was and the effect she was having on Phillip.

    Now Phillip lost his mind over his love for Rachel and Rachel saw that the anger and abuse that Ambrose had was also in Phillip. I think she manipulated Phillip into giving her the money so she could live the rest of her life wealthy but she still cared for Phillip enough that she planned to take care of him after she had the estate. She got what she wanted but that didn’t mean she had to ruin the boy… she just had to delicately over time get him to realize that she wasn’t going to be with him forever like he presumed. I don’t think she was poisoning him or meant him harm but she did manipulate him to get the estate which would be returned back to him once she died with what’s left.

    I believe the long look from Louise at the end was her wondering, “is he thinking about her again… he always thinks about her even to this day.” She is realizing even though Rachel is dead that Phillip is still in love with her. In that moment I felt sorry for Louise.

    So, my theory, is that Rachel is bad but not the villain… she manipulated a virgin boy to give her the estate that she probably thought was rightfully hers, but she wasn’t trying to poison or kill him and she didn’t kill Ambrose. I think she cared for Phillip but more so the way you like a puppy and not a lover or husband (her words by the way). Louise is a normal girl, she played a roll in Phillip’s misreading Rachel but she was jealous and rightfully suspicious of Rachel. Louise and Nick’s negative disposition towards the way Rachel had Phillip wrapped around her finger were natural and justified viewpoints but not villainous.

    Phillip fell in love and became foolish and paranoid after her rejection. He is bad b/c he led her to her death but in that moment he was convinced she was a murderer and he was next. She had also betrayed his trust by using him to get the estate. He was not the villain either… he just let his love sick heart make him make bad decisions. If you have ever been really lopsidedly in love with the wrong person you will sympathize with Phillip’s poor decision making but he is not villainous.

    So in the end, everyone is flawed or imperfect but nobody is a villain with purely malicious intent. They are all just very human which is amazingly realistic.

    There’s my take.

  29. Carlos

    The fact that in the book Ambrose declares himself women-hater and that she didn’t take any money from Ambrose and Phillip render Rachel innocent from poissoning them.

    Whether Louise poissoned Phillip to make Ambrose letter accusations to Rachel even more plausible is another subject. Anyway the long lasting migraines and the artritis-like Phillip along Ambrose were suffering seems more of a family run illness.

    But I believe the conclusion of the story is that in the absence of data from Rachel, the society had classic prejudices about her being a witch not and not raising childs that affected the inmature Phillip. While people were gossiping about her and the money, she was exploring the world with an open mind.

  30. Alex

    I recently took on the task of finding out whether Rachel was truly innocent in the movie. I had re-watched the movie to confirm my beliefs

    Before, I was a pro-Phlips in the movie, but after careful consideration. I think Rachel is actually really innocent .

    First off, I am going to argue for my point through point taken from discussion from other website or this one for the team pro-Philips

    1)”the minute she wakes up from their love making her first thought it to get clarification on the line item in the transfer of wealth”
    For this, I believe that Rachel had Philps’ jewelry all over the bed when she woke up, knowing that this is a crazy reaction from Phlips , she collected all the jewelry to return them and must be utterly shocked when she read the document and therefore must confirm what is ambiguous that she might have not known and therefore asks Kendall about them .

    2) ” someone who claims to be distraught over losing their husband then seduces his nephew”
    I always thought Rachel had a despair within her when Ambrose dead. Seeing Philip as a striking resemblance of Ambrose, she must be relieving one of despair by comforting and helping Philip around his needs.

    3) “the minute he signs over his wealth to her, her affections immediately shift”

    Rachel had always wanted to be a independent women. ( Example of Rachel receiving money from Philip for the first time & Conversation of Philips and Rachel during the night that they fought )

    The document that he had signed have meant that all the doings ( comforting and helping Philips )from Rachel , have had a very unintended consequence to Philip (of Philip falling in love with her). Philip always thought that she had loved him through these doings, and so when the documents is reveal, Rachel had to change her attitude towards Philips because she would not want Philips to continue love her.

    Rachel doesn’t want the document because that will tied her down to Philip.

    5)”he only begins getting sick after drinking the tea SHE serves him and is adamant about him drinking it. 5) his uncle suspects the tea is poisoning him”

    (IN THE MOVIE) I believe that Philip was sick before she served him tea. In fact, Rachel served him tea BECAUSE he was sick. The sickness symptoms was starting to show when Philips was walking back through the forest after the quick love-making with Rachel in the forest. His legs were dizzy already .

    Addressing the second point, I believe Ambrose was already sick before he met Rachel , a tumor in his head ” had affected his thinking “( from the movie), and therefore through his hazed thinking, he had concluded that without any further evidence. And also, Ambrose is known for not needing any women or women-hater, adding to the point that Ambrose might also have heard of the rumors where Rachel will send money off the country , which may cause him to think even more wickedly of Rachel .

    6) “she cautions Louise against drinking the tea meant for him. Almost like she knew it was poisoned.”

    I think this is simple. Because Philip is the ill, not Louise , the heavily -endorsed herb drink was made specially for Philip to drink . And she always had the intend of Philip well being . ( Example , Rachel saying that everything would be back to normal after she leaves , when he gets better , and wants to go away without ever inflecting anything onto Philip. She even had the intend to bring Philip over to Italy from the letter)

    7)”there are rumors of her cheating ways and spending habits. Which reinforces her love for money and potential infidelity which may have triggered her desire to poison his uncle in the first place. To silence him.”

    I believe in the movie itself, this had been explain quite well from Philip himself. Her spending habits is all from the un-greedy, un-selfish attitude of her to share and buy everything for everyone else like during the Christmas Party , and her giving things to the poor when Philip spied on her.

  31. H.S.

    Tara Stuart – I like your summary and thoughts on the plot. I think I’m inclined to agree with you. Thank you. (Although one thing you said at the beginning wasn’t correct- Ambrose is the boy’s uncle in the film as well as in the book (he isn’t portrayed as the boy’s father. As yes the film also mentions the death of his parents). I really enjoyed it. Although, Rachel was so overly insistent on him drinking the tea.

  32. Cynthia Taylor

    Also, in Louise’s defense in the movie, at the end when they realize Rachel may not have had ill will toward Philip at all, and Philip admits to sending Rachel to the dangerous cliff, Louise cries, “what have you done?” to Phiip. Does anyone remember if that was from the book as well?

  33. Unnimaya

    Really do appreciate this review. My views on the confusion in the movie :
    I actually think that Rachel is a manipulative woman. Manipulators aim at gaining the innocent victim’s trust and affection to gain what they please. While Philip is a young boy with absolutely no experience in women, he’s easily drawn to Rachel’s charm. I don’t think that Rachel is innocent. Even though the ending is confusing there are actually direct instances from the movie (I just saw the movie. Need to read the book.) which suggest that Rachel isn’t very innocent.
    It is weird how she runs to the lawyer first thing in the morning to clear her ‘doubts’ on the will. It doesn’t quite fit with her previous outburst when Philip had increased her ‘allowance’. This could have been her manipulative trick to make Philip feel that she didn’t care about the money and had come only to remember ‘Ambrose’. I mean seriously? Not judging her or anything but it is weird that she should be okay with having an intimate relationship with Philip if she cared so much about Ambrose (at least why so suddenly?). After the first time they make love, the next morning she keeps Philip waiting (while she had gone to clear her doubts about the will) and she doesn’t seem to be interested in him anymore. She doesn’t seem to be passionate enough to make love to Philip again. After that Philip does embarrass himself by asking her to marry him to which she refuses. Later, Louise does make it clear that Rachel had enquired about the formalities of the will and how the estate would revert back to Philip if she married him. Of course, maybe that is also why she thought it to be her best option not to marry Philip and end up breaking the poor guy’s heart. This is the best option for Rachel to be independent too.
    The next instance which makes everything clear is her weird herbal tea which actually makes Philip ill. When Louise and he finds out that he could be being poisoned, there’s a scene in which Rachel makes that tea for them. When Louise gets the tea, she tells her that that is for Philip. Also when Philip refuses and asks her to drink it she’s suddenly taken aback and changes the topic. The point is that she doesn’t drink it after all.
    Rachel also invites a ‘companion’ for her to stay at home further breaking Philip’s heart.
    From my own personal life experiences, Rachel reminds me of a narcissist + manipulator who knows how to play and get what she wants (all her emotional outbursts melt Philip’s heart). Philip is under her mercy, her control, wanting to make her happy, becoming upset at the things she does but going back to square one when she says a kind word. Their relationship at one point reminds me of a narcissist and victim.
    Most reviews talk about not being sure about Rachel. What I feel is that even until death, this woman was wearing a convenient mask from which nobody completely understood her or had any real evidence about her motives. If she never had this mask on, anyone would have caught her before (in her previous marriages), i.e., even after she dies, Philip is left confused (“Did she? Didn’t she?”). I feel that all the signs which show that she could have been innocent were just a part of her mask because this is what manipulators do. They enchant you, hurt you, play the victim and they are even capable of making you apologize to them for hurting you. Even though she died, her mask stayed.
    A very thought provoking movie I must say.
    Thank you.

  34. marc huff

    I liked it better after reading all your comments. I believe the case can be made for all three characters. I’m a guy so the whole first love thing which reeks of manipulation, which is a man in love can either be true or imagined. The wonderful birthday present, to her, just laying there during sex the next afternoon in the field. It makes me think to question her motives. Then again women change their minds. We’ll put a man on the moon before we figure out women sexist laugh hahahah. kidding. I liked the physical symptoms but I thought he was lovesick. I mean she just pulled his heart out still beating. He felt betrayed so he may not have been the villain until provoked at the end. No intent. Lousie spurred by her livelong love. I mean how many people would selflessly help the love of their life get someone else, Rachael. I know there’s a lot of good people out there that may be like that I just have never meant them in the flesh. louise smile at the end in the carriage does it for me. She got her man even traumatized or still ill, the kids like someone said in comments dressed to the nines. I think money Rachael’s motive is secondary to love jealously motives of the other two characters. I believe Rachael is the innocent victim and the other two co accomplishes directly and indirectly with her death. He got revenge she got what she wanted, and Rachael got screwed both figuratively and literally.


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