Early on in The Deep Blue Sea, Rachel Weisz’s forlorn housewife is told: “Beware of passion, Hester. It always leads to something ugly”. This warning essentially sums up the theme of Terence Rattigan’s acclaimed 1950′s melodramatic stage play.
Hester Collyer (Weisz) has left her husband, a respected high court judge (Beale), to find love with a young former-RAF pilot named Freddie Page (Hiddleston). Stifled by her very polite marriage and the achingly dull monotony of middle-class England, she becomes mesmerised by Freddie’s playful charm and obvious lust. But like other tragic heroines, Hester is not destined for a happy life. The story opens in a grubby bedsit, where she quietly attempts suicide by gas poisoning. When saved by the building’s landlady, Hester wanders the flat in a fog of memories – scenes shift at random, from her raucous evenings in the pub with Freddie to frustrated conversations with her older spouse.
Yet despite the moving subject matter, The Deep Blue Sea is weighed down by its tedious pace and shallow characters. Terence Davies’s filmic adaptation reduces the leads to three stereotypes – a lonely woman seeking romance, an adventurous male distraction, and a devoted but staid partner. There is nothing original or surprising about this triangular affair. And without the relevant backgrounds, it turns into a real chore to feel any connection with these people’s heartaches.
Davies’s intention to create an authentic period setting is similarly misguided. His vision of post-war Britain is all soft focus and washed out lighting. Rather than reflect the gloom of the era, the final effect is rather low budget TV movie. Topped off with a score of screechy violins, The Deep Blue Sea is taxing viewing. Luckily the running time clocks in just under 100 minutes.
However, the cast cannot be faulted. Rachel Weisz delivers another solid performance, proving to be simultaneously high profile and underrated as an actress. She is the centre of the film and conveys every flicker of emotion beautifully. Tom Hiddleston is a revelation and actually comes close to upstaging his Oscar winning co-star. His portrayal of Freddie effortlessly switches between dashing, fun, mean and immature. He is a handsome war hero, reliving the glory days without accepting the consequences of his actions with Hester. Unfortunately, the pair’s talent is overshadowed by the thin script. For a play based on passion and impulsive behaviour, this film is oddly cold.
DVD features: Since The Deep Blue Sea is a low key production, the extras are limited to an interview with Terence Davies and a making-of featurette. There are behind-the-scenes clips and comments from the cast explaining their approach to the story, research, set design etc. To be honest, there is probably more insightful information about the film online, given the volume of press material online nowadays.
The Deep Blue Sea is released on DVD and Blu-ray on 26th March 2012 – order it here