Does the new adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s classic 1938 novel deserve all the critics’ spite? Absolutely not.
While not as atmospheric and tense as Alfred Hitchcock’s famous 1940 film, Ben Wheatley’s version is very watchable and it crucially restores the ending. The settings are beautiful, the attention to detail impressive, the actors likeable. The characters are even a little improved upon, as the second Mrs de Winter (played by Lily James) is more lively and undergoes more of a development throughout the story, while Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer) is more believable and human. Kristin Scott Thomas makes a fantastic Mrs Danvers, the creepy housekeeper. I’m not sure how much a viewer unfamiliar with the book would enjoy this adaptation, but certainly it shouldn’t be compared too much with Hitchcock’s film. It’s not trying to be a remake. The tone is more romantic than sinister, which will disappoint anyone hoping for the original gothic flavour. I like the focus on the love story because it’s different. There are a few details changed from the book, particularly towards the end, but generally the plot is quite close.
The film is not so good that I’d consider watching it more than once, however. It could have been improved upon, I’ll admit that. Don’t expect too much and you may be pleasantly surprised. As in the vast majority of cases, the book is still better than all its screen adaptations.
Low-resolution image from Wikipedia.