19 December 2011

Review | The Deep Blue Sea

I went into the screening of The Deep Blue Sea knowing I would love it. There you have it. I was already biased, based mainly on my memories of the Vivien Leigh version and also the depressing subject matter. See, I love a good cry at the cinema. I'm one of those crazy creatives who often finds more solace in sadness than in happiness and froth. So as soon as I saw the film trailer, I was sold.

The Deep Blue Sea tells the story of Hester (Rachel Weisz), a woman who finds herself bored in a marriage to a kind, elderly judge, and is drawn into a passionate affair with an ex-war pilot, Freddy (Tom Hiddleston), who she eventually gives up her respectable world to be with. The film begins with her attempted suicide - still illegal at that time - caused by a frustration of not being loved by Freddy with the same intensity of feeling that she has for him. 

For the film to succeed, the choice of actor for the role of Hester is paramount. Rachel Weisz proves that she is one of the finest actors working today, with a performance that is poignant without being pathetic. Hester would rather be in a destructive, unbalanced relationship that allows her to feel with every fibre of her being, rather than married to a man who adores her but does not satisfy her. It's an age-old dilemma that will always split opinion; is it better to have loved and lost, or never to have loved before?

In these modern times, it's tricky for films with stories of unhappy marriages to ring true. Nowadays we can quite easily follow "I do" with "Actually...I've changed my mind", and for the most part, nobody bats an eyelid. It's possible that films such as The Deep Blue Sea (and Brief Encounter or The End of the Affair) lose an edge for a modern-day audience, and their tales of restraint - or lack of - can seem irrelevant. Davies's direction is never damning of Hester, which is how it may have been presented by a director fifty years ago. The focus here, however, seems to be more on Hester's passion, and that's something with which we can all identify.

I never experienced it myself, but Terence Davies manages to make me feel like I knew the fifties. Not the candy-coloured optimism of America that we are so often presented with in the movies, but rather the bleak, poor austerity of post-war Britain. Instead of Happy Days diners and picket fences, we are presented with smokey pubs and blitzed buildings; instead of sunshine and cocktails, we have ration books and fog. The mise-en-scène is perfectly pitched. The fifties in England seems to have been like a continuation of the war but without the bombing. 

You get a feeling from The Deep Blue Sea that everyone just tried to soldier on.