The Deep Blue Sea - DVD Review
Review by Jack Foley
TERENCE Davies’ ‘radical’ take on Terence Rattigan’s play The Deep Blue Sea offers a sombre dissection of love that makes for melancholy viewing.
It’s often beautifully shot and really well acted but sometimes struggles to escape its theatrical roots and feels emotionally stunted. It doesn’t feel particularly radical either.
Davies’ big decision is to transport the play from its ’40s setting to 1950s London, and to trim a lot of the exposition that traditionally comes from Rattigan’s text ‘to the bone’.
He also allows things to unfold from the perspective of Hester Collyer (Rachel Weisz), the tragically repressed wife of a British judge (Simon Russell Beale) who finds herself suddenly caught in a self-destructive affair with a former RAF pilot (Tom Hiddleston).
Beginning with her attempted suicide, it then proceeds to flit back and forth in time, offering brief insights into Hester’s affair while examining the devastating fallout from her failed attempt to take her own life.
In doing so, Davies delivers an often captivating portrait of a woman on the brink of despair… whose risky decision (especially within the ’50s context) to leave her marriage and take up with her handsome pilot lover could spell ruin in so many ways.
Weisz is excellent at tapping into this despair, and is often allowed to occupy her scenes silently… her sombre, sometimes lifeless staring into the abyss evidence of a tortured, even broken soul, who was unprepared for the potential pitfalls of giving into passion for the first time.
But she’s well supported by Hiddleston, both charismatic and cruel as Freddie (a man still haunted by his own war-time experiences, no matter how often he likes to brag about his derring-do), and by Russell Beale, tender yet never intimate and hopelessly ill-equipped to understand his wife’s decision-making and feelings.
Indeed, there is sometimes so much to admire in the work of both the cast and the film’s director that it’s difficult to be too critical. But no matter how earnest proceedings become, the film is difficult to like for several reasons.
The despair that envelops just about everyone all of the time threatens to become stifling, while some of the bigger moments – as characters break free from the stiff upper lipped politeness that governed society at that time to express passion or rage – often feel too staged.
It’s during such moments that you start to feel that Davies has failed to make the most of the opportunities provided by the cinema medium and when, you suspect, his own love of the poetic gets the better of him.
Indeed, his film resonates far more when it is allowed to operate in silences, when looks or minimal dialogue are allowed to convey so much more and don’t feel so much like they’re playing to a theatre audience. In such moments, his cast really do excel.
But even then, on a couple of occasions, Davies floods a couple of scenes with classical music and makes the emotions feel forced. From a filmmaker of Davies’ reputation, that feels like a disappointment.
So, while The Deep Blue Sea is admirable in many ways, it’s also underwhelming in a lot of others, while the melancholy tone is difficult to shake for some time afterwards even though Davies does his best to fill the last scene with a sense of hope.
Running time: 95mins
UK Blu-ray and DVD Release: April 2, 2012