“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…”

Reviewing Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca

Daphne Du Maurier’s beautifully written novel Rebecca has been one of my most treasured works of fiction for years, which is why I was so hesitant to watch the new movie dawning the same title, released by Netflix on October 21st. 

Using well-thought-out, detailed visuals and multiple motifs, Du Maurier’s novel was able to create a gothic story unlike any other. Its decadent descriptions and in-depth character development are certainly difficult to replicate in a two-hour time period, but somehow this film didn’t disappoint me as much as anticipated. 

Though Maxim DeWinter being portrayed by a younger Armie Hammer didn’t exactly fit the old, stately Maxim I had once imagined, and the plain, nameless narrator being portrayed by the beautiful Lily James proved how Hollywood made its mark on the writing, I still felt as if I was being transported once again to the beloved Manderley. 

The film’s use of gloomy lighting and eerie foreshadowing proved effective in creating a sense of dread and mystery in a shorter amount of time, without feeling too rushed. One of my favourite symbols from the novel was the red rhododendrons outside of Manderley, representative of Rebecca’s omniscient presence on the property. These sadly were not included in the film, most likely for the sake of time. As well, the film lacked focus on the actual details of the property, Manderley, which was a large focus of DuMaurier’s as many of her novels came about via inspiration from architecture. 

 Details like these were missed and were replaced mostly with copious mentions of Rebecca’s name, serving as a reminder to the nameless protagonist that she will never be good enough. 

Without the smaller details scattered throughout the film, I found it was much easier for viewers to guess the ending, making the film in its entirety less suspenseful and surprising than the novel. The exciting buildup of foreshadowing and mystery is missed out on. This being said, some viewers may prefer a quicker burning story and appreciate the film’s ability to tell the story without the meticulous setting up of suspense. 

As far as movies based on books go, this was one of minimal disappointment, managing to encapsulate the gothic nature that Daphne Du Maurier so carefully created. It was enjoyable overall to be able to revisit Rebecca, and my greatest hope is that the film will bring this devastatingly underrated gothic novel to the hands of young readers to enjoy as much as I have.