Not Satisfied With That Rebecca Ending? Sorry, But It’s Exactly How Dame Daphne Du Maurier Imagined It
Warning: Spoilers ahead for Netflix's's Rebecca.
Netflix's October lineup is full of ghastly offerings about monsters, ghosts, and vampires, but spooky season isn't just about the supernatural — the course of true love can be just as terrifying. In Rebecca, an adaptation of the 1938 gothic novel of the same name, a young woman finds herself fighting an impossible battle against the lingering spirit of her new husband's dead wife. And true to the original subject material, this story reaches a dramatic climax before its troubling conclusion.
Rebecca begins with our protagonist's (Lily James) hurried entrance to the grand Monte Carlo hotel she's staying in as part of her job as a paid companion to the filthy rich Mrs. Van Hopper. Our unnamed heroine's duties are simple and quite boring: as the wealth woman's companion, she runs errands and accompanies her boss to meals each day. The tiresome but well-paying gig gets more interesting when the young woman accidentally catches the eye of Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer) at lunch. They spark up a quick friendship, and before long, the ill-matched pair begins spending all of their free time together.
As the relationship develops, our heroine makes several attempts to get Maxim to open up to her and share the details of his tragic backstory. The wealthy bachelor hasn't always been single; he's actually a widower just a few years removed from the sudden death of his wife, Rebecca. Unfortunately, even though the story of Rebecca's passing has become fodder for the rumor mill, Maxim isn't exactly open to discussing it, even with his new love interest — it's personal.
The summer love affair faces a sudden threat when Mrs. Van Hopper decides to suddenly leave the hotel to return to New York (no doubt a plan to put her charge back in her rightful place). To ensure that they aren't separated, Maxim proposes marriage. He and our protagonist rush the wedding, and she suddenly has a name: Mrs. de Winter.
The de Winters head home to England, where Maxim's sprawling Manderly estate awaits them, but their welcome home is frigid, thanks to a cold greeting from chief housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas). As Mrs. de Winter attempts to acclimate to her spooky new quarters, she can't help but feel like an outsider. In addition to Mrs. Danvers and the rest of the staff being perpetually wary of her, the mansion is full of memories of Rebecca that no one seems willing to let go of.
Slowly but surely, Mrs. de Winter pieces together the mystery of Rebecca's death, learning that her predecessor died at sea. The loss weighs heavily on Manderly and on Maxim, who seems like he is still in love with his deceased wife. Mrs. de Winter's attempt to bring joy back to the estate fail horribly, especially after a ball stirs up painful memories of her husband's past and estranges them further.
The truth behind Rebecca's life come to light when her damaged sailboat and her decomposed remains are found ashore — she wasn't killed in a boating accident after all. Maxim reveals that he had actually fatally shot his wife, stunning Mrs. de Winter by saying that his relationship with Rebecca was actually one of mortal enemies rather than soulmates. As it turns out, Rebecca was a flagrant adulteress, and she had told him that she was pregnant with another man's child.
"I hated her," he admits. "Hated her cruelty — hated my cowardice knowing that I wouldn't divorce her or do that to my good name."
It isn't long until the police come around to investigate Rebecca's death, her cousin and lover Jack Favell (Sam Riley) leading the charge. He knows that Maxim is somehow involved, and he'll only be silenced by a large sum of money. Things are about the go very badly for the de Winters until it is revealed that Rebecca actually wasn't pregnant; she was suffering from a malignant tumor in her uterus that would have taken her life even if her husband hadn't shot her.
The court case is dismissed, but before the couple can ride off into the sunset, they have to deal with the manipulation of Mrs. Danvers. Unfortunately, the de Winters are too late. The housekeeper has set the Manderly mansion on fire, burning every brick of the estate down to the ground before jumping into the sea. Rebecca is gone for good.
Still, the memory of Rebecca still haunts her husband and his new wife as they embark on their new chapter as a married couple. Even though they're now free to live their lives as they please and travel the world on a whim, Rebecca has forever changed them. The ghost lives, just the way that Dame Daphne Du Maurier intended.
Rebecca is now streaming on Netflix.