The first non-documentary feature from esteemed British director Terrence Davies (The House of Mirth) in some 11 years is a rather curious creature. Davies has crafted–oh my, has he crafted–a rather drowsy and leisurely paced film that is bathed in rich, deep yellows, crimsons and blues and filmed through a haze of post-war cigarette smoke. Despite seemingly being confined to all but a few sets, Davies has punctuated his minimalistic romance with beautiful refined costumes, ornate set decoration of sublime precision and sumptuous cinematography that nonetheless appears to be slowly strangling its protagonists from behind. An omnipresent autumnal chill permeates the film and The Deep Blue Sea never transcends its stage bound origins, but the finely modulated performance of Rachel Weisz (The Lovely Bones) is a thing of such beauty that one can forgive its simpler trappings.
Set predominantly in the quaint upstairs apartment of a young couple in post-war England, The Deep Blue Sea charts the troubled romance of Hester (Weisz) and Freddie (Tom Hiddleston, Thor) as her fluctuated temperament takes dramatic turns for the worse. As she grapples between the safe love of her ex-husband (a wonderful Simon Russell Beale, My Week with Marilyn) who offers stability and money, and the fiery passion of Freddie, the lives of all three will be irreversibly changed.
It’s a simple plot, sure, but one that aims to look at human frailty and sensuality far more than it does erotic sex or large-scale period dramatics. Davies’ knack for this time period is as fine now as it ever was, and the reduced scale of the production allows for some wonderful details to be highlighted. I loved the coin-operated heaters, the torch-lined cobblestone streets and the overcast sky that hangs over the proceedings like a permanent houseguest. Still, much like Roman Polanski’s Carnage, it occasionally feels like a stretch to truly say it demands your money at the box office when it has been made in such a boutique fashion.
Thank heavens then for Weisz whose fierce, but rarely in a fashion that distracts from the hushed events around it, performance sees the actress wrapping her tongue around the fabulous dialogue of Terence Rattigan’s 1952 play, which has been adapted for the screen by Davies. Imbuing her performance with such deeply burrowed pain and sensual desire, Weisz has finally made good on the promise she offered seven years ago when she won an Academy Award for The Constant Gardener. As her skin radiates likes porcelain, she works to a classic style of acting that has ever so slightly been updated with modern day perspective. The performance is a quiet feat of achievement that makes the somewhat simple film that surrounds it all the more necessary.
The Deep Blue Sea is released in Australia on April 12th
Director: Terrence Davies
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston, Simon Russell Beale