The second film in Terence Davies's autobiographical series ('Trilogy', 'The Long Day Closes') is an impressionistic view of a working-class family in 1940s and 1950s Liverpool, based on ... See full summary »
Based on Terence Rattigan's 1952 play, The Deep Blue Sea is stylish soap opera at its best, and an overly ripe melodramatic downer at its worst. The film is reminiscent of the type of films that were popular fare in the fifties. ( And please, don't confuse it with the similarly titled shark attack movie some years back. ) No blood is spilled in this movie adaptation, but many lives are destroyed as loss and suffering does take its toll.
It is post-war Britain. Ruins are everywhere, from the bombed-out buildings to the people who inhabit them. There is a drabness in their hopeless lives, their colorless clothes, and their everyday routines. One such person is Hester Collyer, an unhappy romantic soul, trapped in a comfortable but loveless marriage to Sir William, a wealthy judge. Of course this means only one thing: suicide or an affair is in the offing. Fortunately ( or unfortunately, as the case may be ) after she meets a dashing but lonely RAF pilot named Freddie, there is a temporary respite from her real world. Lust, sin, and passion become the missing strands to her unraveling world ( which is not too surprising when one sees Hester's blatant scarlet red coat that overtly signals a Prynne moment is upon us. No subtlety lost here. Code Red, or is that Coat Read? )
This period melodrama is terribly British with a capital B. All proper diction, words unsaid, and formal reserve. Everyone is so noble and refined. Writer / director Terence Davies evokes the right atmospheric mood as we become lost in Hester's memories. He has a fine visual eye for those bittersweet times and Davies sensitively recalls the aftermath of WWII most efficiently with his use of popular and classical music and strong imagery, especially the impressive Underground bomb shelter scene. After an overly slow beginning, the director paces his film quite well using sounds, silences, and pauses in the characters' reactions to their conversations most effectively in telling his tale of a love undone.
The film sporadically uses these moments to tell the story of the makings of a passionate love affair, but its fragmented structure never allows us to understand Hester's attraction and her rationale to her self-proclaimed changes in her life. She's portrayed as a sympathetic victim, yet this character chooses the very unhappy lifestyle that she now wallows in, and we moviegoers are unable to see the results of her actions. It's as if some parts to her past are missing and sketchy, especially the happier times.
As the damaged Hester, Rachel Weisz is quite smashing. This talented actress fills her slightly underdeveloped role with such clarity and depth. ( Her scene in the pub as she stares into her lover's eyes while becoming uninvolved with the rowdy goings-on during the sing- along of a Jo Stafford tune says more than mere words could have expressed. ) It is a powerful nuanced performance. Completing the love triangle is Simon Russell Beale as her concerned husband and Tom Hiddleston as her cad of a lover. Both actors create indelible contrasting personalities, although the character of Freddie comes off the worst of the pair. Solid support from Ann Mitchell as Hester's landlady and Barbara Jefford is Hester's judgmental mother-in-law round out this wonderful ensemble.
The Deep Blue Sea is a successful throwback to the the great David Lean film, Brief Encounter. Only this time, the encounter is not brief and fleeting, just fleeting. It takes the moviegoer back to a former time, unlike today, when movies had a heart and mind, and dare I say, soul. GRADE: B
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