Rebecca: The plot of new Netflix film adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s novel
- Credit: Netflix
What is forthcoming Netflix movie Rebecca about? Here’s a plot guide to the latest adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel.
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”
Starring Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’s Lily James, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. lead Armie Hammer and Dame Kristin Scott Thomas, movie Rebecca lands on streaming service Netflix on Wednesday, October 21, 2020, after showing at selected cinemas.
After a whirlwind romance in Monte Carlo with handsome widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer), a newly married young woman (Lily James) arrives at Manderley, her new husband’s imposing family estate on a windswept English coast.
The new Mrs de Winter is unnamed – we never discover her first name – while the Rebecca of the film’s title actually refers to the first Mrs de Winter.
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Naive and inexperienced, Lily James’ character begins to settle into the trappings of her new life.
However, she finds herself battling the shadow of Maxim’s first wife, the elegant Rebecca, whose haunting legacy is kept alive by Manderley’s sinister housekeeper, Mrs Danvers, played by Kristin Scott Thomas.
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In its final act, Rebecca turns the screw once more as psychological thriller gives way to propulsive mystery.
The story invites readers to reexamine their memories of what they thought they believed about this twisted, complicated love story — and beckons an entirely new generation of viewers to discover its dark corners anew.
Hatfield House in Hertfordshire is one of the houses used for the inside of Manderley in the mesmerising and gorgeously rendered psychological thriller directed by Ben Wheatley and based on Daphne du Maurier’s beloved 1938 Gothic novel.
The film’s cast also includes Emmy Award-winning actress Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale) as Mrs Van Hopper, the American aristocrat for whom Lily James’s character is paid to accompany on holiday in Monte Carlo at the start of the film.
Bodyguard actress Keeley Hawes plays Beatrice Lacy, Maxim de Winter’s sister, while Sam Riley (Maleficent) is Jack Favell, Rebecca’s sleazy, scheming cousin.
Tom Goodman-Hill (The Imitation Game) stars as Frank Crawley, the manager of Manderley’s business affairs, Mark Lewis Jones (The Crown) plays Inspector Welch, and Bill Paterson (Fleabag) is Dr Baker.
Rebecca is more than just a romance. It’s the story of three very different women, one of whom isn’t even alive, fighting for psychological dominance in a house that could only ever be owned by the male heirs to the estate.
Delving further into what makes her character tick, Kristin Scott Thomas notes the realities that women like Mrs Danvers – and the second Mrs de Winter – faced as a consequence of their gender.
“Daphne du Maurier was furious with the fact that in the 1930s, women had lower status than men, deferred constantly to men, were nothing without their husbands. Indeed, Mrs Danvers is nothing. She has no husband.
“Where’s Mr Danvers? Where’s he gone? He’s dead, probably killed during the First World War. So she’s left with no status and with no status, what happens? You become a domestic.
“Which for Mrs Danvers, is a step down in her ranking and she will not let anyone forget that. She’s desperately sad about having to give up what she thought was due to her.”
At once romantic and mysterious, Wheatley’s Rebecca offers a distinctively modern take on du Maurier’s tale of secrets, jealousy, and inescapable pasts – and varnishes it in a patina reminiscent of classic Hollywood.
What begins as a sweeping romance in sun-kissed Monte Carlo cunningly moves into darker psychological thriller territory after the newlyweds, Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer) and his second wife (Lily James), arrive at Manderley.
Maxim’s imposing estate – and the object of one literature’s most famous opening lines – is where the young woman finds herself battling the haunting legacy of de Winter’s first wife, the titular Rebecca.
“Rebecca is a classic novel I thought I knew. But when I read the script I thought, ‘Oh, I’ve misremembered this completely,’” says director Wheatley.
“I figured I’ve got some weird cultural amnesia, but when I talked to others about this and they couldn’t remember either, I realised this massively famous novel maybe isn’t as well remembered as it ought to be.”
He adds: “What I really loved was that du Maurier had a scheme, which was to smuggle in something quite sinister inside the wrapping of something that looks like a romantic story.
“You’re lulled into that false sense of security before it’s pulled away from you.”