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Deep Blue Sea, The


Stars: Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston, Simon Russell Beale, Ann Mitchell, Harry Hadden-Paton, Sarah Kants, Jolyon Coy, Elisha Stimson

Director: Terence Davies

Playwright Terence Rattigan, whose major works include French Without Tears, The Browning Version and Separate Tables, is rather more honoured than remembered. Which makes the release in the same week of two films referring to his work – ‘My Week With Marilyn’ which takes place during the filming of Rattigan’s weak comedy ‘The Sleeping Prince’ as The Prince and the Showgirl and his 1952 success ‘The Deep Blue Sea’ – of some interest.

As adapted and directed by cult (i.e. possibly overrated) director Terence Davies, surprisingly ‘The Deep Blue Sea’ comes to the screen a great deal less theatrically than Anatole Litvak’s 1955 version (screenplay by Rattigan) which starred Vivien Leigh and Kenneth More. In the key role of emotionally assailed Hester Collyer, who lives a privileged life in the 1950s as the wife of high court judge Simon Russell Beale, Weisz gives the performance of her career. She surely deserves an Oscar nomination for her controlled and deeply moving characterisation as she quits her stale marriage for a passionate sex-driven affair with former RAF pilot Hiddleston and is driven towards suicide.

The key to the drama is the setting post-war Britain when open infidelity was not a staple of the popular press as is the current case. Which makes Hester’s choice – between the devil and the deepl blue sea – all the most affecting and poignant.

Hiddleston does well with a role that sometimes veers perilously towards stiff-upper-lip cliché and Beale does what he needs to do – which isn’t really that much – with dignity and conviction. The acting laurels belong to Weisz and she certainly earns them.

Davies’ direction sensibly serves to showcase his star: his recreation of the period is quite effective, especially his clever recreation of the period social milieu of pubs. It’s a real pity, though, that Florian Hoffmeister’s muddy cinematography leaves much be desired.

Alan Frank

UK 2011. UK Distributor: Artificial Eye. Colour.
98 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 26 Nov 2011