Adapted from the play of the same name by Terence Rattigan, British director Terence Davies returns to fiction-filmmaking after more than a decade with The Deep Blue Sea, a melodramatic tale of love, longing, regret, and carrying on.
Rachel Weisz plays the weary Hester who, after an unsuccessful suicide attempt, struggles with her relationships with both her soon-to-be-ex husband William (Simon Russell Beale) and her pilot lover Freddie (Tom Hiddleston). Weisz is wonderful in the lead, carrying the film almost completely on her shoulders, entirely believable as a woman who is unequivocally in love with a man who doesn’t love her in the same way and at the same time being unable to do the same for her current husband.
The trouble with the film is the staginess of it. Some films which are adapted from plays are able to be cinematic, and it makes sense why a translation was needed in the first place (Frost/Nixon comes to mind). Unfortunately, The Deep Blue Sea doesn’t fall into that rare category but rather in the one which makes it very obvious the film is based on a play. The dialogue is very over-the-top and dramatic (sometimes needlessly so) and there are minimal locations and a lack of eventfulness that evoke what the stage can do rather than the screen.
It’s one of those films where you have to just be accepting of the deliberately slow and steady pace which is almost set in motion by the ticking clock heard at the start. It takes its time, focusing more on the characters and the staging rather than a lot of things constantly going on: a film of people in small rooms confronting one another and delving into issues that are not usually broached in normal polite conversation.
There’s a lot here to like here, from the three main performances by Weisz, Hiddleston, and Beale to the sumptuous music, gorgeous cinematography, and expertly crafted atmosphere. But there’s something oddly old-fashioned about the film, and that has nothing to do with the period ’50s setting: the way its put together – the transitions, the dialogue, the overall melodrama – all make it seem like it’s from decades ago. While that may transport you in some ways it nevertheless, in 2011, feels a little dated.