The Deep Blue Sea plays the Perth International Arts Festival from March 19 to 25. It hits select Australian cinemas on April 5. Click here for more details.
Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston star as illicit lovers in this adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s acclaimed play The Deep Blue Sea. When it first debuted on the stage back in 1952, the post-war setting was a contemporary one. Sixty years ago, it was likely an immediate, intense, and important piece of work.
But today, thanks to Terence Davies’ adaptation, it feels like a turgid, ponderous, unsuitably melodramatic tale that is over-performed and over-written (kind of like this review). That’s not to denigrate Rattigan’s legacy, of course (his play’s standing in the history books won’t be dislodged). As a modern movie, however, The Deep Blue Sea is more concerned with replicating period detail than anything else.
It begins with the attempted suicide of lovelorn Hester (Weisz), who has abandoned her husband, an esteemed judge (Simon Russell Beale), for rambunctious, sweet-talking pilot Freddie (Hiddleston).Though we don’t understand her motives at first, we eventually learn that Hester’s love for Freddie is only matched by her insatiable lust, and that Freddie only reciprocates it somewhat. Over the course of one day – paging Mrs. Dalloway! – Hester, saved from the brink of death by nosy neighbours, tries to win back Freddie, secure a divorce, and ignore the emotional scars imprinted on her by WW2, despite traumatic reminders surrounding her flat in war-torn London.
Weisz and Hiddleston share some nice moments, but they (and the feature as a whole) struggle to find the right balance between stiff-upper-lip character drama grounded in reality and histrionic-happy melodrama. Davies’ undeniably makes a pretty picture, but it’s ultimately an empty one. It bears comparison with Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House, but Mrs. Dalloway is surely the closest relative. Much like that Virginia Woolf classic, the late Rattigan has similarly inspired an underwhelming film too.
The Deep Blue Sea plays the Perth International Arts Festival from March 19 to 25. Click here for more details. It hits select Australian cinemas on April 5.