Taking place in a still-ravaged London in around 1950, Terence Davies exquisite The Deep Blue Sea is a story of passion and its aftermath; of what happens when an unhappy woman goes chasing after something shiny, only to find how quickly it fades.
Rachel Weisz, achingly beautiful, is Hester, a clergymans daughter who married a much older, sedate attorney named William (Simon Russell Beale) and settled into a comfortable but unexciting life. After the war, she meets a dashing younger man, Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston), a former fighter pilot who wears his war-hero glamour like a jaunty hat, and falls in love with him. Hester leaves her husband and, drunk with passion, moves into Freddies tatty flat where life soon loses its rosy sheen.
Based on a celebrated play by Terence Rattigan (filmed previously in 1955, starring Vivien Leigh) and set to a plaintively radiant violin concerto by Samuel Barber, The Deep Blue Sea moves elegantly backward and forward in Hesters tale. We see William and Hester visiting Williams imperious mother; Hester and Freddies first meeting; Hester in a warmly lit pub with friends, gazing at Freddie like hes an oasis in the desert; William and Hester huddled in an underground train station with their neighbors during a war blitz; and Hester, late in the film, looking at Freddie with a sort of bright sadness, understanding that he cant ever be what she dreamed.
This is the first feature from Davies since his 2000 version of The House of Mirth (which gave Gillian Anderson a virtuoso role), and the two films share a lush visual beauty.
Beale, conveying a sober resignation to lifes disappointments, and Hiddleston, playing a fading golden retriever of a man, are perfectly cast, but this movie belongs to Weisz, whos in every scene and movingly presents Hester as a vulnerable but knowing woman, living in a time when nothing made sense and trying desperately to reconcile fantasy and reality.
Its not sordid, she hotly tells William, of the affair with Freddie. I love him.
Its a slow, quiet tragedy, beautifully told.