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26 November 2011

Truly Blue

When it comes to movies, I don't tend to watch a lot of comedies but even so, Terence Davies' The Deep Blue Sea is seriously bleak, with only the slightest glimmer of hope at the end of 100 minutes of despair. As the film opens, it is London in the early 1950s and Hester (Rachel Weisz) is composing a suicide note. Apart from Hester reading the note aloud, we don't get any dialogue for a good five or ten minutes. Instead, we see Hester turning on the gas and lying down, slowly shutting her eyes. She is "saved", in the end, by her landlady and one of the other tenants but as they warily leave her alone, she starts to reflect on some of the events of the previous few years.

Her husband William (Simon Russell Beale), a successful judge, cares for her deeply but their life lacks passion and they disagree over the importance of this. "Beware of passion, Hester," William's humourless mother tells her, "it always leads to something ugly." But Hester just runs upstairs and makes a call to her RAF pilot lover Freddie (Tom Hiddleston) and tells him she will be, "back in the city soon, darling." Of course, William overhears and wants to know who else she calls darling and when he finds out, he refuses to give her a divorce and tells her he doesn't want to see her ever again.

In most other films of this ilk, you would expect to see a decent chunk of the film showing Hester and Freddie being happy together but in The Deep Blue Sea we get about 90 seconds in a pub in Oxford, most of which is taken up with Freddie and his friend Jack (Harry Hadden-Paton) doing comic interpretations of their glory days in the war. Instead, from Hester's flashbacks and from the 24 hours that follow her suicide attempt, we see that although Freddie is the love of her life, she may not, perhaps, be his as he proves unreliable, forgetting her birthday, and is prone to loud, furious rages in inappropriate situations. In the present day, William, caring as ever, finds out about the suicide attempt, and tries to be helpful, offering to give Hester the divorce and begging her to come home. She is caught between the devil and the eponymous deep blue sea. It is only later that she realises that the way she feels about William, is probably the way Freddie feels about her (minus the sex and passion and all that).

So, not one for a grand happy ending then. The performances of the three lead actors are all very strong, Weisz's sad voice catching in almost every line she speaks, conveying Hester's desire and desperate need for more than just a platonic love and her despair at her impossible position. Russell Beale's William is very sympathetic, while Hiddleston is, by turns, charming and funny and then cruel, thoughtless and insensitive. The film itself seems to alternate between a somewhat melodramatic Brief Encounter (complete with haunting strings music (Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto, I think)) and a very quiet, serious stage play (with no music and no background noise). To paraphrase Brief Encounter, The Deep Blue Sea wasn't a very happy movie but it was well executed and with very good acting.


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