“The Deep Blue Sea” is a British drama written and directed by Terence Davies and based on a play of the same name by Terence Rattigan. It’s an interesting character-driven story about a struggling woman who’s wedged between a passionless marriage and a passion-fueled romance. It’s not a bold or extravagant picture but it’s a very good one mainly due to two incredible performances by its leads.
The story takes place sometimes “around 1950”. The movie opens with Hester (Rachel Weisz), a troubled and depressed woman, attempting to take her own life. From there the story unfolds through a series of flashbacks sprinkled throughout. They tell the story of Hester’s lifeless marriage to a devoted but passionless Court Judge (Simon Russell Beale) and her eventual fling with Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston), a pilot and war hero. Hester is a quiet and reserved woman with a genuine affection for her husband. But there is an emotional disconnect between the two which is most evident during a visit with his domineering mother. In a different flashback we see her meeting and eventually falling for the charismatic Freddie. In an almost puppy-love way, she’s struck by his vivacity and ‘live for the moment’ mentality which leads her to make a costly decision.
I like how the film doesn’t portray infidelity in a light-hearted way. Hester’s choice is costly and most certainly has consequences. I don’t want to give away too much but there are clear ramifications to her actions both physically and emotionally. Rachel Weisz is very good as Hester and she handles the character extremely well. When asked what drew her to the role, Weisz spoke of her attraction to playing someone who had fallen so hopelessly in love and completely humiliated herself in the process. I found Hester to be a frail and sometimes childlike character whose poor choices are rooted more in new emotions and new passions than a true understanding of love.
Tom Hiddleston is fantastic as Freddie. I’ve become a huge Hiddleston fan as he seems to have a natural ability when it comes to acting. Whether he’s portraying a classic literary figure or a comic book supervillain, Hiddleston commands the screen and never seems to struggle with the material he’s given. Here he sells us completely on Freddie’s free-spirited energy. But he shows us another side of the character which causes us to question not only him but his motivations.
“The Deep Blue Sea” moves and feels like a play. The performances drive the movie and the two leads give top-notch work. The sets also capture a compressed but precise 1950’s vibe that is perfectly fitting for a story so ill-advised and taboo. I do think the movie would have better served by a smarter and more fluid use of the flashbacks. There were a few instances where I thought the jumps did more to hinder the storytelling than help it. I also struggled a bit with Beale’s character. While Beale’s performance is solid, I never could wrap my mind around his character. He was sympathetic but yet seemed emotionally inconsistent. These gripes don’t kill the movie by any means, but they do hold it back.
VERDICT – 3.5 STARS