Straight from its swelling, melodramatic, orchestral opening scenes, the sense of romance and true love as heightened by Terence Davies’ meticulous treatment of Terence Rattigan’s celebrated stage play leaves us in no doubt as to what we are about to witness. Namely, the slow unwinding of love and love-lost by post-war lamplight.
Rachel Weisz (excellent) is Hester. Unsatisfied by a staid, physically distant marriage to her judge husband William (Simon Russell Beale) she begins an affair with an ex-wartime RAF pilot Freddie – as played by Tom Hiddleston (toe-to-toe with Weisz in the acting stakes).
Some overlapping vignettes recap the initial stages of the story and it’s a while before anyone can actually settle into the characters’ world. When we do there is the realisation that Hester’s whole, physical, passionate love might not be enough to save herself and Freddie. He is as far from perfect as her abandoned husband, with all too human foibles and frailties. Their alchemy and balance is never far from instability. True love bites. And so do the words in Davies’ crafted adaptation of Rattigan’s prose. Conversations and confrontations slice and rasp. All in a most considered post-war fashion. Perfectly illustrated early on by a small but painfully enjoyable ménage a trois between mother-in-law, Hester and husband.
The Deep Blue Sea is the type of movie you’d imagine curling up to on a Sunday afternoon, fire-blazing, in the dead of winter. Full of deliberations on what really constitutes love, wartime nostalgia and complex fully rounded characters. It’s suffused with the very notion of loving, but the film simply cannot be loved. Suffocating and measured. Fragile and composed. Reserved and volatile. It never quite disguises its stage roots. For that reason, it’s both cinematic and, unfortunately, not.