- Katie Bell
Ah, Rebecca (2020), the perfect example of why you probably shouldn't marry someone after knowing them seven days. I mean, I know that it works for some people, but in this case it sure was a wild ride.
This film had me from the start. The narration that is delivered in the opening moments of Rebecca is poetic and reels you in. "Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again. I dreamt that where our drive once lay, a dark and tortured jungle grew. Nature had come into her own, and yet the house still stood. Manderley. Secretive and silent as it had always been." Yes. I would like to read the book please. (I have since found out, that this exact text is unique to the movie, but I've also read that the opening lines of the book are just as effective).
Rebecca (2020) is about two young people, a widow by the name of Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer), and our nameless protagonist (Lily James). These two meet by chance in Monte Carlo, fall in love and marry quickly, before returning home to the Manderley Estate which has been in the de Winter family for over three centuries. Now, if you haven't read the book, I'm sure you're thinking, but who on earth is Rebecca? The answer, in short, is that she's the old Mrs de Winter. Or rather, the dead Mrs de Winter. And her memory haunts Manderley for the duration of the film. Not exactly the bundle of fun a newlywed is looking for. Manderley is enormous, and the new Mrs de Winter is lonely, despite the presence of numerous staff on site. Everyone is always comparing her to Rebecca, and reminding her of how perfect the former Mrs de Winter was and how in love her and Maxim were. Not at all the bundle of fun a newlywed is looking for. Oh, and also, Mrs de Winter's things are still preserved as they were when she was alive, in the West Wing.
At this point, I'm going to take a short break from my review, to admire the casting of Lily James in period pieces. It just works. Also, James has a beautiful way of speaking a script naturally. She stammers and stutters and delivers in such a way that you can't help but believe that she is an orphaned lady's companion who has learned more through books than experiences.
Thematically, this film addresses both mental health and loneliness well. There's so much beautiful scenery, and Manderley itself is stunning, but in stark contrast to all of this beauty, Mrs de Winter appears completely lonely. Of course, it starts as an isolation and sadness, but as her relationship with Maxim worsens, through a series of misunderstandings, really, (communicate, people!) these feelings intensify. You can't help but feel for her and you almost feel trapped alongside her. At one point, Mrs de Winter appears to be having a panic attack. This is communicated not only through James' performance, but also through the way in which the scene is filmed. There's disorienting camera movement, point of view angles, red colours and a feeling of total claustrophobia. Later, Mrs. Danvers, the head housekeeper, almost becomes a personification of depression. She leans in towards Mrs. de Winter and says things like, "You are nothing," and "You are worthless," and "He can't love you because you're not her," and "No one wants you here". At this point in the film, I actually wondered if Mrs. Danvers was an hallucination, projecting Mrs de Winter's inner monologue...but then I realised that she's just a really hideous and manipulative person, who enjoys bullying. Honestly it's quite full on.
I don't want to write too much more, because if you are going to watch this film, without first reading the book, it's plenty twisty and a pretty enjoyable ride. There were a few things that took me by surprise, and what could almost be described as a bit of genre hopping, too. It is romance, it is mystery, it is drama, it is crime. It is everything you'd expect, and definitely more.
You can catch Rebecca (2020) on Netflix.