Britain after the Second World War would have been a dreary place to live in. The country’s citizens faced several drastic Post War austerity measures such as food rationing. Bombed sites and charred buildings proliferated throughout London and in other British urban centres. Massive unemployment plagued the entire country from north to south.
Director Terence Davies has taken great care to give The Deep Blue Sea a significant amount of period authenticity, however most of the scenes in this low-budget movie have been filmed indoors, so there aren’t too many views of extras in the correct dress of the depicted era and there are no daytime scenes of streets lined with black Austin saloons and Commer vans. With the exception of a couple of pub scenes, much of the movie focuses on singular headshots – a technique, which gives the movie, a strong intimate pull. There are few dramatic camera tricks in the film apart from the odd pan shot, but the decision to focus on the actor’s spoken words close-up must reflect on the script’s theatrical roots.
Terence Davies had previously created an award-winning documentary about Liverpool titled Of Time and the City in 2008. Next, Davies adopted The Deep Blue Sea from a play written by Terence Rattigan in 1952 for the big screen in 2010, but unfortunately the end product is not a shining cinematic moment for this otherwise talented director.
Hester Collyer (Rachel Weisz) is a young upper-class woman who has deserted her wealthy husband (Simon Russell Beale) to live with Freddie Page – an ex-RAF fighter pilot (Tom Hiddleston). After 10 months of passion, Hester believes Freddie is too unstable, uncultured and immature. Hester can’t bear the thought of returning to her mother-doting milksop of a husband either, so she attempts suicide. Mrs. Elton (Ann Mitchell of East Enders fame) discovers Hester in bed just before the woman slips away to eternity. An older gentleman with an indeterminate background in medicine saves Hester’s life. From here on, the very gorgeous Rachel Weisz spends much of the time shuffling around in her RAF boyfriend’s dumpy bedsit in bedclothes and smokes numerous cigarettes.
On occasion, the viewer is shown a decisive flashback and some of these visions help to illuminate Hester’s precarious martial situation with her husband William Collyer – a man totally lacking in romance and ardour. One strong scene in particular details a negative interaction between Hester and her mother-in-law (Barbara Jefford). Jefford is a brittle and cruel mother-in-law who enjoys dispensing unwanted advice to the younger woman. Beware of passion Hester – it always leads to something ugly, she advises.
There are some very intense scenes in this movie, and the majority of the actors strive to add substantial depth to their roles, but the dialogue is too sparse and some of the film’s key characters aren’t well developed. In particular, Tom Hiddleston never seems to become Freddie Page – the disaffected and drunk RAF pilot who’s trying to make ends meet as a golf champion. Maybe this isn’t a bad thing.
The Deep Blue Sea also contains some very strong acting, for example Ann Mitchell portrayed Mrs. Elton as a self-righteous but caring landlady, thus giving her role a complex and realistic depiction. On this note, I’m sure many of us have had intrusive but well-meaning landladies like Mrs. Elton at some point in our lives.
The main character Hester Collyer could have been so much more. Although Rachel Weisz has proven to be a very intelligent thespian in the past, I found it difficult to sympathise with Hester Collyer for the majority of the screening, but believe most of the fault lies with the script and not with the actor.
Overall, The Deep Blue Sea is a movie striving to be sensuous and emotive, but instead this is a melodramatic and hollow effort with sentimental piercing violins playing throughout – except for an occasional rousing pub chant from the 1950’s.
The Deep Blue Sea opens Friday April 13 at the Ridge Theatre.