The Deep Blue Sea review

Hester Collyer (Weisz) has separated from her husband judge William (Beale) and is having a sordid little affair with former RAF pilot and war hero Freddie Page (Hiddleston). The relationship is complicated by the fact that their feelings towards each other are not a precise match. And Sometimes it's these fine margins that make or break love.

Not so much based on Terence Rattigan's 1952 play of the same name, director Terence Davies has more or less recreated a stage play for the big screen. There are very few sets, the acting is deliberate, pauses colossal, and with only a handful of characters this feels every inch as if it was made for the theatre.

And that is simultaneously both the film's greatest strength and greatest weakness. For as good as the players are the sheer desperation of Weisz is at almost every turn undermined by the melodramatic feel engulfing the film. Davies makes the most of the opening, a bravura five minutes which tells the backstory with virtually no dialogue and employs some innovative camera techniques. But beyond that, there are only so many times a backlit Weisz smoking wistfully at a window can be evocative or even mildly diverting.

The nature of the story is that this is slow-moving in the extreme. Indeed, to say it's glacially paced is to do a disservice to glaciers. The subtleties and vagaries of love is a brave topic to tackle in a play, never mind as a film and for me it simply didn't work. Technically it's excellent but the stagey nature is a barrier rather than a gateway to a bygone era. More importantly, it's a barrier to emotional engagement, on which the entire story hangs. If you want to see a 1950s play, this is for you. Otherwise, you might well find it hard-going in the extreme.

Official Site
The Deep Blue Sea at IMDb

Justin Bateman is a Screenjabber contributor

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