October 24, 2012 -- “The Deep Blue Sea,” a tale of a sad marriage and sadder affair is based on a 1952 play of the same name written by Terence Rattigan. This adaptation is by writer-director Terence Davies (House of Mirth), who is attracted by this sort of sad material. At times, it seems like half the movies and TV shows coming out of the British Isles is written by someone named Davies, including Andrew Davies (“Pride and Prejudice” and “Sense and Sensibility”) and Russell T Davies (“Dr. Who” and “Queer as Folk”).
The film starts out with a suicide attempt by the main character, Hester Collyer (played by Rachel Weisz of “The Constant Gardener”). This prolonged scene involves a number of flashbacks to previous relationships in her life. No, this isn't one of those movies where it is all flashbacks (like the TV show “Lost”), but there are a whole lot of flashbacks in this movie. Hester is a married woman having an affair with a former Royal Air Force pilot, Freddie Page (Tim Hiddleston of “Marvel's The Avengers”). Flashbacks take us to her bleak married life with a wealthy judge, Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale of “My Week with Marilyn”).
We can see immediately why Hester was unhappy with her marriage. William is a nice guy and all, but lives with his mother, displays no passion for Hester, and then there is the matter of the twin beds. He is furious when he finds out his wife is having an affair with Freddie, a man who is passionate, but not nearly as nice and sociable as William. William's anger fades over time, but he has no idea how to win back his wife, or how to ease her pain.
The bulk of the story is an examination of the complex, doomed relationship between Hester and Freddie. These two seem to love each other, but Freddie is unwilling to continue his affair with Hester when he finds out she tried to commit suicide. He cannot bear the consequences to himself if she tried again, and succeeded. He doesn't want to be responsible for her emotional welfare. Hester's motives seem simpler. She loves Freddie and wants to stay with him, despite his severe emotional issues. Freddie, however, sees Hester as being emotionally dependent on him and he wants no part of that. It appears he wants a woman who is more self-sufficient than he believes Hester to be. The inability of Freddie and Hester to give each other what they need emotionally reminds me of a chorus of an old Bee Gees song, “You don't know what it's like to love somebody the way I love you.” This is the very definition of sad.
While the film has some of the same characters as the play, the relationship between Hester and the former doctor, Mister Miller (Karl Johnson of “Hot Fuzz”) is reduced to almost nothing in the film. This relationship was a crucial one in the original play because it provided Hester with a reason to continue to live. As a result of this change, it seems there is no hope for Hester to move on with her life at the end of the film. What we are left with is a story that goes nowhere slowly. Instead of a story arc it is more of an interesting, but depressing and pointless, character study.
The film is set in London right after World War II. Bomb damage is still evident. Some flashbacks depict scenes during the war. The pub scenes are interesting because of the practice of pub patrons singing popular songs together. This is not common in America. Some of the flashbacks have Hester singing with people at the pubs in happier times. The strict moral codes and stifling pressure for conformity in those times is also evident in the film. The look of the film is arresting. It is a kind of soft-focus look with sepia overtones that make you think of old photographs. This film rates a C+.
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