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Stars: Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristin Scott Thomas, Keeley Hawes, Sam Riley, Ann Dowd, Tom Goodman-Hill, Bill Paterson, Jane Lapotaire, John Hollingworth, Jeff Rawle, Lucy Russell

Director: Ben Wheatley

Daphne du Maurier meets Mills & Boon. In the golden days of Hollywood, real-life sisters Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland starred in classic film adaptations of du Maurier's novels Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel.

Alas, gone are the the black and white images that enhanced Dame Daphne's Gothic tales of romantic mystery. The recent remake of Rachel did at least have some connection with the chilly feel of the original, but, here, in the new Rebecca, rose-hued pastel shades and banal dialogue have replaced the cutting edge that made the original so memorable.

Central casting reflects the new approach: Hammer is merely stolid as the could-be enigmatic Max de Winter, taking his new bride (James) to Manderley, his mansion perched on England's Cornish coastal cliffs, there to replace his mysteriously-dead wife Rebecca, whose malign presence hovers over the entire proceedings.

And the 'plain' second Mrs de Winter (as in the original, a Christian name is never mentioned) is now the far-too-pretty James, whose character varies alarmingly from vacant to resourceful. And the saccharine treatment only exposes the limited ranges of both stars.

Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 film won an Academy Award as best picture. This one, despite the icy excellence of Scott Thomas' take on the forbidding housekeeper Mrs Danvers, is more likely to be in for a shoal of Golden Raspberries, even though its production and costume designers both do top work.

What next for poor du Maurier? A revamp of The Birds, perhaps, with picturesque swarms of gaily-coloured parakeets running amok.

David Quinlan

UK/USA 2020. UK Distributor: Netflix. Colour by Arri.
121 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 16 Oct 2020