The Deep Blue Sea


Directed by Terence Davies. Starring Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston, Simon Russell Beale, Karl Johnson, Ann Mitchell 15A cert, Cineworld/IFI/UCI Stillorgan, Dublin, 98 min

AS T HE Deep Blue Seaopens, Hester Page (Rachel Weisz), formerly Lady Collyer, knocks back more aspirin than they advise on the box, puts shillings in the gas metre and makes like Sylvia Plath. Having abandoned privilege and her husband, a respectable judge, for a plainly doomed romance with an ex-RAF pilot, Hester has nothing left to live for.

Hester’s stout, resilient landlady Mrs Elton (Ann Mitchell) and the neighbours feel otherwise. They revive the suicidal tenant, and our heroine must again deal with her impossible predicament. She has no wish to return to her husband but no future with her feckless lover, Freddie (Tom Hiddleston). Random flashbacks reveal Hester’s stifled past as a wife – watch out for the ghastly mother-in-law – and her increasingly joyless extra-marital affair. What’s to be done?

Forget Twilight. This month’s most angst-ridden release is surely Terence Davies’s adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s unfashionable 1952 chamber piece. In a world where everybody sounds like Celia Johnson, interior tortures are an aristocratic luxury counterpointed with earthly realities like the Blitz.

“Love,” observes Mrs Elton, “is wiping someone’s arse and allowing them to keep their dignity.” Love for Hester, however, is an exquisite brand of torture.

A fragile and fragrant Weisz keeps us on her side, though it’s impossible to see why she adores the useless Freddie. Perhaps, as the film suggests, he’s merely a convenient exit strategy from wifely duties.

Directorial tics are present and correct: the strains of Molly Malone ring out romantically across a bomb shelter; pubs are invariably enlivened by sing-songs.

The material can’t quite transcend its theatrical origins; there’s just no escaping the dingy wallpapered set, the mannered dialogue and the obvious stage directions. Nobody shouts out “exit stage left”, but nobody has to.

Davies, a maestro of miserabilism, compensates with lavish soft focus and a sweeping score. Dingy wallpaper, after all, is what he does best.