Rebecca: Film vs Book Review

Hey, welcome to my post! Today I’m talking about Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier and the new film adaptation Rebecca on Netflix. I’ll be answering key questions like: should you read the book before the film and is the book or film better? I will also have separate spoiler-free and spoilery sections, so you don’t have to worry about Rebecca getting ruined for you!

The Plot

Rebecca is about an unnamed young woman, who leaves her position as a ‘lady’s companion’ to marry Maxim De Winter, an older widowed man. The book is mainly set in his estate Manderley, and we follow the new Mrs De Winter as she discovers more about her husband’s ex-wife Rebecca.

My Thoughts

I read Rebecca in November and rated it 4 stars. What I liked about it was the dark, gothic atmosphere and being immersed in the main character’s perspective as someone with no knowledge of what is going on. I can see why some people might not like it, as the start was quite slow, but when we get to Manderley it picks up. I loved the twists and turns and the book took a different direction than what I thought, so I don’t think it’s predictable! But does the film hold up?

Book vs Film: Spoiler-Free Thoughts

So I watched the film last week, just over a month after I read the book. I loved comparing my idea of the characters and setting to the film. The best part of the film by far was the setting– Manderley was beautifully gothic and the surrounding area was almost exactly like I imagined! I wish we could have seen just a bit more of Manderley, but I loved it.

The characters weren’t quite what I imagined though. The biggest issue for me was Mrs and Mr De Winter. The actors are a similar age and although Lily James does look quite young, it definitely doesn’t look like a 20 year age gap. This did affect their relationship and Mrs De Winter’s attitude at points, because when she was acting shy and confused it seemed almost comical at points. However, I think if you haven’t read the book, this wouldn’t be that big of a deal and it’s probably better than seeing a 20 and 40 year old relationship so I’m not too mad about that. I think Mrs Danvers was done really well, although there was a little too much focus on her in my opinion (more about that in the spoiler section). Jack was not what I imagined at all, and his personality felt jarring in the film. Other characters I wish we had seen more of and weren’t portrayed the same were Frank and Beatrice, who I really liked in the book.

In terms of the actual plot, the timing was done well between Monte Carlo and Manderley, so the start of the film didn’t drag as much as the book. However, there was a big disconnect between their relationship at the start and in Manderley. Although that happens in the book too, it gives more context and we see from the narrator’s perspective, and her obsession with the past, why that is. The last two thirds of the film felt rushed and unbelievable, and the ending annoyed me (more in the spoiler section!). Of course, the film can only include so much, so I understand how hard it can be to get everything in only 2 hours.

Spoilery Thoughts

Now for spoilers! 

As I was saying earlier, the De Winter’s relationship did not work as well in the film. One thing that might seem like a minor issue, but I really hated, was when Mrs De Winter outright asked Maxim about Rebecca and he refused to talk. The whole point of the book was that Mrs De Winter was convinced that Maxim still loved Rebecca, and she didn’t think he would talk about it. So when we get the realisation that he actually hated her, the past interactions and their relationship makes more sense. But in the film Maxim is even colder to Mrs De Winter, so the sudden change in their relationship and the happy ending making it all about ‘their love’ makes no sense to me. 

Mrs Danvers was portrayed really well, she was definitely uptight and unsettling. I didn’t understand the point of Mrs De Winter and Mrs Danvers becoming friends then using Clarice to suggest the ball gown in the film, but that was fine, I liked the ball scenes anyway. However, there was almost a bit too much focus on Mrs Danvers instead of the title, Rebecca. It’s definitely harder to explore in the film because we don’t have the narrator’s inner monologue, but I’m not sure about how it was presented. In the film we get a few scenes where Mrs De Winter sees the figure of Rebecca running away, and then it’s never mentioned again. I think if they were going in that direction, they should have used the figure of Rebecca at the beach or done something more with it just so there was more focus on her. I would have loved to see certain flashbacks as well, like Maxim killing Rebecca when he reveals it to Mrs De Winter, or the different ways she could have died at the inquest.

Now, the inquest. This part was probably handled the worst. We don’t see much of the inquest, and it quickly turns into more of a murder trial. I didn’t like the added scenes of Jack revealing the blackmailed money in court and the extra proof condemning Maxim. Then it makes it a lot harder to believe that he is released after one suggestion of a motive for suicide that shouldn’t really acquit him. It’s resolved a little too quickly, so it seems rushed and anti-climactic. I did like the part when we see Manderley burning, but again too much focus on Mrs Danvers! I think it was fitting her to commit suicide the same way Rebecca is meant to, but I just wanted more Rebecca okay??! It could have ended there, but the ending really ruined it for me. I didn’t want a happy ending this time!

Overall Thoughts

So, is the film as good as the book? I would say no, but it was much better than I was expecting! If we weren’t including the last two thirds, the film is just as good, if not better, than the book. However, the end ruined it a little, so I think reading the book before the film is better to understand the ending. I also felt a lot more connected to the characters and invested in the plot having read the book beforehand, which I don’t think would have been the case if I hadn’t read it. Definitely give them both a try though!

Thanks for reading! Have you read or seen Rebecca, and what did you think?


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