Opening with the voice of Hester (Rachel Weisz) reading a suicide note addressed to her lover, Freddie (Tom Hiddleston), Terence Davies' (Distant Voices, Still Lives) adaptation of Terence Rattigan's play The Deep Blue Sea is saturated with a deep and convincing melancholy from the get-go. It also begins quite inscrutably at first, favoring a thick atmosphere that steals one's breath, before eventually allowing the viewer to enter into a conscious understanding of what's driving this seductive, trance-inducing well of sorrow.
Set against the backdrop of 1950s London, the story revolves around Hester's decision to kill herself; the present time of the film occurs across a single day, though much of the story is based in events of the past, remembrances of what's brought her to this point. Her sexless marriage to a much older man, William (Simon Russell Beale), has been compromised by the affair with Freddie. And, now, the glow of the new relationship has dimmed, leaving her passion somewhat mangled and misdirected due to Freddie's inability to love her with an intensity equal to her affection for him.
Freddie's newly acquired coldness is located in lingering issues surrounding his service in World War II. Hester sadly comments, "his life stopped in 1940. He loved 1940. He's never really been the same since the war." As for her own situation, she tells William that, "zero minus zero is still zero," roundly rejecting any notion that the happiness of the past can be reclaimed by her or any of the lovers in the story.
This is a gorgeously shot film, nearly every frame is lit from within by a sumptuous orange/yellow glow that perfectly accentuates the mood of the piece. Each performance hits its mark quite magnificently but Weisz is exceptional, possibly the best she's ever been. The Deep Blue Sea demands a small amount of patience at first, but, if one invests the effort, the film rewards the viewer with a hypnotic and perfectly pitched glimpse of the not too distant past; a time and place where despair, divorce and pressures of social convention were no less stressful than they are now.
The Deep Blue Sea starts its run at Cinema 21 on Friday, April 27th. More info here.
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