Call me by my dead wife's name: can Netflix persuade us we need another Rebecca?

You read the book, you know the drill. Will Armie Hammer and Lily James offer any surprises? You already know the answer

The world needs another Rebecca adaptation like it needs another pandemic. After all, Daphne du Maurier’s novel is an unshakeable classic. It has sold millions of copies in multiple languages since it was published in 1938, and it was in the last few years named as the UK’s favourite book of the past two centuries. What’s more, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 adaptation was such a roaring success that it won the best picture Oscar. Basically, we don’t need more Rebecca, because everybody already knows everything that happens in Rebecca.

But here we are. Netflix’s new adaptation of Rebecca is out next month, with Armie Hammer playing Maxim de Winter and Lily James playing his wife. The biggest sell, though, is that Ben Wheatley is directing. Given his track record, there’s a good chance that the entire mid-section of this Rebecca will consist of nothing but a terrifying non-linear psychedelic freakout. Here’s a quick run-through of the new Rebecca trailer.

Rebecca trailer screengrab 1

1. Here we meet Armie Hammer, in a yellow suit so overwhelming that the only logical explanation is that the costume department got confused and thought they were dressing Timmy Mallett. Because he’s Armie Hammer, we know that he’ll basically be playing one of two roles; either an insufferably arrogant romantic lead or an insufferably arrogant comic foil. And, unless Ben Wheatley has completely dismantled Rebecca, the sure bet is on the former.

Rebecca trailer screengrab 2

2. And here’s Lily James, playing Lily James with slightly shorter hair than usual. This is what Armie Hammer was so intrigued by. Will they fall in love? You’ve read the book, so you already know. Sorry for wasting your time.

Rebecca trailer screengrab 3

3. Hammer and James take an idyllic sun-dappled holiday together. This seems to be a deliberate ploy for Rebecca to market itself as the spiritual successor to Hammer’s best-loved film. Call Me By My Dead Wife’s Name, if you will. Anyway, it looks like they’re having a lovely time and nothing could possibly go wrong.

Rebecca trailer screengrab 4

4. Looks like I spoke too soon, because here comes Kristen Scott Thomas to ruin everyone’s fun. She’s going to show Lily James around Armie Hammer’s home. Is she going to make things difficult for Lily James? You’ve read the book, so you already know. Sorry for wasting your time.

Rebecca trailer screengrab 5

5. As Lily James explores Armie Hammer’s home, she becomes overwhelmed by the sense that Hammer’s dead wife still has a hold on the place from beyond the grave. And, as you can see by the overwhelming greyness of the walls, bedding, accessories and carpeting, it turns out that Armie Hammer’s dead wife was none other than Mrs Hinch.

Rebecca trailer screengrab 6

6. My mistake. Either this R stands for “Rebecca”, or it stands for “Ruh-roh” because this has secretly been a Scooby Doo movie all along. Actually, so far, this version of Rebecca doesn’t seem very Ben Wheatleyish at all, does it? More like the sort of made-for-TV film they show in the afternoons on Channel 5. Where are all the nightmarish visuals? Where’s the nerve-shredding horror? Where, for the love of god, are all the animal masks?

Rebecca trailer screengrab 7

7. Oh, there they are. Panic over, everyone. This is definitely a Ben Wheatley film.


8. What happened to Hammer’s wife? You’ve read the book, so you already know. Sorry for wasting your time. However, there is a good chance that, in this film, the ghost of Rebecca manifests itself in the form of a murmuration. Which is quite pretty, if nothing else.


9. Also, there’s a weird black-and-white sequence where Lily James is shot in the style of a pretentious perfume commercial. Parfum de Femme Morte?


10. And this is what would usually be called a spoiler, if nobody had read the book or seen the film and didn’t know exactly what happened in it. But we have all read it and seen it, so this definitely isn’t a spoiler. Don’t shoot the messenger.


Stuart Heritage

The GuardianTramp

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