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DEEP BLUE SEA, THE (2012)

SYNOPSIS:
In post war London, Hester (Rachel Weisz) the young wife of British Solicitor General Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale) falls in love with ex Royal Air Force fighter pilot Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston). Collyer is shocked and refuses to give her a divorce, and she moves in to Page's modest digs - but their affair is under stress from his bouts of drinking and immaturity. While Collyer continues to offer support and even agrees to give her a divorce, Hester remains loyal to Page, but feels she is between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Review by Louise Keller:
Love's textures form a conundrum in this pensive and expressive adaptation of Terence Rattigan's play of the same name. The place and date stamp of post-war London is one when passions are to be feared rather than embraced for the upper middle class and replaced with guarded enthusiasm. Terence Davies' film is one in which hopelessness, contemplation, confusion, anger and regret form a moody cocoon, as the film's beautiful protagonist, superbly portrayed by Rachel Weisz, tries to manage the maze of emotions raging inside her. Visually beautiful, this is a film for those willing to be seduced into a specific emotional place, where images, ideas and thoughts swirl around deliberately as life's incongruities uncoil and people's differences are exposed.

There's a line of dialogue when high court judge Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale) asks his wife Hester (Weisz) what's happened to her. 'Love, that's all,' she replies simply, although there is nothing simple about love and its manifestations. The narrative weaves in and out of different time frames, as Hester reflects and remembers telling moments in her relationships with both her well-to-do, older husband Bill and her younger ex-RAF pilot lover Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston).

When the film begins, we are introduced to Hester in a state of despair. Apart from a brief voiceover, there is no dialogue for nearly ten minutes as she draws the curtains, places a note on the mantelpiece, takes some pills and turns on the gas. 'I really do want to die' she says before the failed suicide attempt. There are violins, tears and a lot of cigarette smoke as her mind wanders to moments in the past and we meet the two men in her life.

Structurally, the film zigzags in every direction, which some may find confusing, but I was happy to be drawn into different time frames and leisurely absorb the details and intricacies of the complex relationships. Some scenes make clear their theatrical origins. The scene in the backseat of the car, when Bill is talking to Hester about her infidelity, is pragmatic and seemingly heartless. By contrast, when Freddie and Hester try to dissect their different interpretations of love and commitment, there is an inability to express anything. Hester loves Freddie unequivocally but Freddie's capacity to love is severely limited. The passion shown as their bodies are entwined as they make love seems to be the only way they can express themselves. Mrs Elton (Ann Mitchell), the elderly landlady has her own view of love ('love is wiping someone's arse').

Weisz commands our attention as the woman desperately seeking love, every miniscule expression hitting its mark. Hiddleston and Beale give nicely contrasted performances while the other characters ground the film into their respective realities. I love the scenes with Barbara Jefford as Bill's difficult mother as she and Hester clash openly. With beautiful lighting, Florian Hoffmeister's cinematography captures every heartfelt moment expressed, while Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto tears at our heartstrings. Production design by James Merifield is superb with its muted colours accentuating the drabness of the surroundings and the pain of the subject matter.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Postwar England was still constrained by fairly strict moral codes (divorce was rather taboo), especially in the upper middle classes, the audience for which (sarcastically) he wrote his plays, including The Deep Blue Sea. Add to that Rattigan's signature of understated emotions and you have a period play which does not adapt well to the screen, distant as it is both socially and culturally. It is also a throwback in cinematic terms, complete with sombre, under lit scenes and the weeping violins (of Samuel Barber's concerto for violin Op 14) harking back in style to the late 40s and early 50s in cinema.

The challenge to make this play work is immense, and it has not been successful. Understatement of emotions has been translated as lacking pace. The laboured and stilted behaviour of the characters is another element that hinders the film for today's audiences. The downbeat mood, ignited at the start with Hester's (Rachel Weisz) attempted suicide, doesn't help.

Weisz is as good as the script lets her, but she can never explain to us - either in words or actions - why she is married to a decent but dull older man with whom she has nothing in common. Where he is desperately safe in all he does in life, she harbours passions, which are of course unsafe, as her stern and ghastly mother in law (Barbara Jefford) tells her over a stitched up dinner.

As if to prove Hester's incompetence at meeting Mr Right, she falls for Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston), an immature fighter pilot who has yet to grow up and earn the respect he craves. He is so vile and cruel to Hester in one particular scene that we find it impossible to forgive him as she does. But even before this, it is hard to fathom what she sees in him. Alright, that may be generally true of many couples; we can't know inside any relationship except our own. But dramatically, the film fails to engage us in Hester's plight, since we have no investment in either man.

The intimate scale of the work - a love triangle of sorts - gives the film a claustrophobic mood, which the visuals emphasise. The Deep Blue Sea would be desperately depressing if it weren't so thunderingly dull.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

DEEP BLUE SEA, THE (2012) (M)
(US/UK, 2011)

CAST: Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston, Simon Russell Beale, Karl Johnson, Barbara Jefford, Ann Mitchell

PRODUCER: Sean O'Connor, Kate Ogborn

DIRECTOR: Terence Davies

SCRIPT: Terence Davies (play by Terence Rattigan)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Florian Hoffmeister

EDITOR: David Caharap

MUSIC: n/a

PRODUCTION DESIGN: James Merifield

RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 12, 2012







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