Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston Bare Their Souls in ‘The Deep Blue Sea’

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CHICAGO – Terence Davies’ “The Deep Blue Sea” has been earning raves around the world for its dramatic portrayal of doomed love. Personally, I found the film more inert than engaging but the two lead performances are so consistently powerful that the talent of their performers ultimately drew me into this depressing whirlpool. It’s not the film it could have been but the sheer skill of the great Rachel Weisz and the great Tom Hiddleston make it a film worth seeing.

Based on the play by Terence Rattigan, “Deep Blue Sea” is a slow descent into the mud of a passion that can only end in tragedy. In fact, the film starts in tragedy as it opens with the suicide attempt of Hester Collyer (Weisz). Most of the rest of the piece is told in flashback as we learn how Hester got to such a devastated place emotionally (and her mental state is artfully mirrored by 1950s London, a landscape still recovering from the physical impact of World War II.) There was a time when Hester was happy (although even the happiest days in “The Deep Blue Sea” feel weighed down with impending melancholy).

The Deep Blue Sea
The Deep Blue Sea
Photo credit: Music Box Films

Hester was once married to the much-older Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale), a judge who seems like a relatively nice guy but offers stability, not passion. Hester finds the passion in Freddie Page (Hiddleston), an RAF pilot dealing with deep post-traumatic stress disorder at a time when such a thing wasn’t widely recognized. Freddie is the opposite of William – younger, vibrant, dangerous – and Hester is drawn to him in a way she can’t control. The best thing about “The Deep Blue Sea” is the way in which Davies, Weisz, and Hiddleston present these people as characters drawn into a relationship in a way that is completely beyond intellect or control. They have no say over whether or not they will become lovers or what that will do to their lives. It is inevitability. And, unlike most romantic dramas, the fate that pulls lovers together isn’t always kind.

Hester’s infidelity is soon revealed, tearing her marriage apart. But she can’t maintain life with Freddie either since he is the kind of unpredictable soul who finds comfort in bottle and sport as much he does bed. Lost in the middle of her inert husband and overt lover, Hester tries to kill herself.

The Deep Blue Sea
The Deep Blue Sea
Photo credit: Music Box Films

I have to admit to seriously struggling with the first act of “The Deep Blue Sea.” This is a slow, deliberate film that first seems melodramatic and boring instead of realistic and engaging. I tried to connect to these characters but found it difficult until I stepped back and appreciated the stylistic efforts of Davies. There are parts of “The Deep Blue Sea” that feel like a dream, whether or not it’s the brilliant use of music (melancholy tunes like “Molly Malone” and “You Belong to Me” are perfectly used) or the dark, broody palette of the film. A lot of Londoners in the ‘50s were as lost as Hester, stuck between worlds and wandering a still-damaged landscape.

As much as Davies’ artistic decisions started to grow on me, the film truly belongs to its performers. Not unlike Tilda Swinton, I actually think that Weisz has become a more interesting actress since she won her Oscar, delivering incredibly underrated performances in films like “The Fountain,” “The Brothers Bloom,” “The Whistleblower,” and now this, arguably her best post-Oscar work. She’s simply one of the best working actresses. Hiddleston broke through last year with the incredible range of “Thor,” “Midnight in Paris,” and “War Horse,” such a diverse array that I’m willing to bet a lot of people didn’t even know that Loki and F. Scott Fitzgerald were played by the same man. He’s a serious talent to watch. The raw emotion that they both bring to “The Deep Blue Sea” cannot be dismissed.

“The Deep Blue Sea” stars Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston, and Simon Russell Beale. It was written and directed by Terence Davies and opens in Chicago on March 30th, 2012. It is rated R.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

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