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Film Review: Rebecca (2020)

Rebecca (2020) - source: Netflix

IMDB Link: Rebecca (2020)
Director: Ben Wheatley
Writers: Jane Goldman, Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse
Stars: Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristin Scott Thomas
Based on: Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Synopsis: A young newlywed arrives at her husband’s imposing family estate on a windswept English coast and finds herself battling the shadow of his first wife, Rebecca, whose legacy lives on in the house long after her death. 

Lily James is one of those actresses that still seems to be under-appreciated, even after the success of Baby Driver and the live-action adaptation of Cinderella. This may just be her best role yet as Mrs. de Winter, a performance that has to be vulnerable and as a fish-out-of-water in comparison to her surroundings.

This is a story that has been several times, most notably the 1941 film adaptation by Alfred Hitchcock. I had not seen any of the previous adaptations of this story, but I fell in love with the narrative. With stories like these, it can be hard to distinguish a protagonist and the twists are hard to pull off. However, from the script to the performances, I found myself sucked fully into the story and every moment that occurs, even if I could predict what was coming up.

What makes this story come to life is the distinct stylisation of the story, from the dark themes to the gothic style that is used. This is clearly a film that does not care to making the story modern or in the present day. The links to the gothic era are still heavily rooted in this story, and the editing and colour palette brings that to life in such a stunning manner.

What helps bring this style come to life is the production design, which is easily the strongest point of this film. The production design takes us back to the gothic era, whilst the costume design is stunning and I want every outfit that Mrs. de Winter wears. The cinematography is also a strong point, with the framing help to capture all of the gorgeous visuals on screen.

Whilst Lily James is the stand out in this film, there are some other performances that are strong throughout the film. Kristin Scott Thomas is great as Mrs. Danvers, playing a role that is mysterious but has that hint of evil behind her eyes. I am not the biggest fan of Armie Hammer as an actor, but Ben Wheatley knows exactly how to use his type of performance and get the most out of him, using him effectively in every scene he is in. The reserved performance that he is known for actually works in this particular role.

This is an engaging story throughout, but it is a film that perhaps needed extra time at the end. If there is one major issue with the film, it comes down to the pacing. This is a film that is structured in three parts, and it feels like the final part – despite being the most interesting of the plots – is the one that has the least time to develop. If this had an extra 20 minutes to add to the end, allowing for a more natural progression of the plot and to see the shift in each characters’ motives more gradually, the pay off at the end would have been much more satisfying.

With a story this engaging and such stunning visual design choices, this is a film I can see myself coming back to again and again. I would have liked the film to take some time, particularly in the final act, to make that impact and focus on the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. de Winter, but this is still a wonderful film and another success from Netflix.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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