Rebecca (2020) Review


First written by Daphne du Maurier in 1938, Rebecca tells the tale of a young woman who weds a wealthy widower and their life in a luxurious mansion haunted by the ghost of his late first wife, Rebecca. In the Netflix adaptation, directed by Ben Wheatley (Kill List, High-Rise) and written by the likes of Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse, and Jane Goldman, the story is more or less the same. Unfortunately, as is the case for books-to-screen adaptations, Wheatley’s Rebecca falls short of the novel’s thrilling premise. 

One of the film’s best features is the cinematography, which is on point all throughout. 

Manderley is as hauntingly glamorous as depicted in the novel, and so is Monte Carlo and the various different settings. Although it is all pleasing to the eye, great visuals alone are not enough to make a movie good. 

Rebecca is all sizzle and no steak. The cast, as talented as they may be in other films, is bland and uninteresting. In the novel, the second Mrs. de Winter is a young, awkward woman who has not yet lived her life. And although her Lily James (Baby Driver, Cinderella) stays true to the character, the awkwardness comes more from the acting than the character. James’s performance is cringe-worthy, but not in the way that was intended. Likewise, Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name, The Social Network) takes his character’s personality to the extreme. In the novel, Maxim de Winter is a handsome, aloof figure that is twice as old as his second wife. In the film, the age gap is reduced and the coldness factor is cranked up to ten, making Maxim feel like the story’s antagonist rather than Mrs. Danvers. 

Speaking of which, the only performance that stood out in the film was Kristin Scott Thomas’s take on Mrs. Danvers, Manderley’s head housekeeper. Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Four Weddings and a Funeral) brings forth Mrs. Danver’s cold, mysterious persona on-screen and is perhaps the only interesting character in the film besides Jasper the dog. 

Rebecca is a Gothic thriller about the metaphorical ghost that haunts a manor and its people. The second Mrs. de Winter is merely the narrator, but hardly the main character. Still, the 2020 film focuses more on Mrs. de Winter’s loss of innocence story than any other aspect of the story, and because of it, the movie fails to achieve what the novel once did. 

Unlike the novel or Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 film, the Netflix adaptation of Rebecca lacks a sense of mystery, intrigue, and even love that its counterparts are praised for. Instead, it delivers a raunchy film that is boring, hollow, and not worth watching over the 1940 classic.