Desperate love with first-rate acting
The Deep Blue Sea
Director: Terence Davies (The House of Mirth)
Screenplay: Davies (From Terence Rattigan play)
Cast: Rachel Weisz (The Lovely Bones), Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers)
Runtime: 98 min.
by John DeSando
“Love, that's all.” (Hester responds to her husband when he asks her what happened.)
No film in recent memory is as depressing as The Deep Blue Sea, Terence Davies’ adaptation of Terence Rattigan's play. In either venue, the story of Lady Hester Collyer (Rachel Weisz) and her infidelity will sear your brain in recognition of the perfect storm of love and lust sung to the tune of 1950's conservatism, which largely meant staying with a spouse regardless if it’s a loveless marriage.
Freddie (Tom Hiddleston), a WWII Brit flyboy, hasn't graduated yet from the romance of that war to the responsibilities of true love in civilian life. Hester unfortunately is ripe for romance with him as her older husband, a high court judge and a peer, is caring but far too reserved to provide a tender woman with the love she needs.
This is a simple film of measured speech in the tradition of West End thespian greatness. Unlike the orderly upper class, love is not simple but rather messy. In the claustrophobia of her apartments, either beautifully appointed with Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale) or bare with Freddie, Hester is always waiting, either for her husband to love her or her lover to stay with her. Ironically Sir William is waiting, too, with love taking its measure of despair from those who love. As for charming Freddie, he is exuberant, careless, and destructfully self-centered.
Davies and Rattigan intercut between times to make The Deep Blue Sea seem just that: fragmented and deeply melancholic. Yet despite the incoherence, you’ll not see a better acting trio this year. Where the play lacks vibrancy or heart, the actors give it their best.
When Freddie consoles Hester upon leaving her with this cliché, "Never too late to start again, isn't that what they say?" he is also hitting the center of her tragedy—she is so passive that this may be the first and last adventure she will ever have.
All that’s left is the estranging deep blue sea:
Who ordered that their longing’s fire
Should be as soon as kindled, cooled?
Who renders vain their deep desire?
A God, a God their severance ruled!
And bade betwixt their shores to be
The unplumbed salt, estranging sea.
Matthew Arnold, “To Marguerite—Continued”
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at WCBE.org.
He also appears on Fox 28’s Man Panel
Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com