Deep Blue Sea

Reviewed by Marc Glassman

Deep Blue Sea

Terence Davies, director & script based on the play by Terence Rattigan

Starring: Rachel Weisz (Hester Collyer), Tom Hiddleston (Freddie Page), Simon Russell Beale (Sir William Collyer), Harry Hadden-Paton (Jackie Jackson), Ann Mitchell (Mrs. Elton), Barbara Jefford (Collyer’s mother)


The buzz
Last year was playwright Terrence Rattigan’s centenary and the British theatrical establishment–after fifty years of neglect—finally began to take up his work again. When the British angry young man movement hit in the late ‘50s, Rattigan went from being the fashionable writer of such well-made plays as The Browning Version and The Winslow Boy to yesterday’s man. So a new cinematic version of one of Rattigan’s biggest hits, Deep Blue Sea, was bound to generate attention in England.

Terence Davies, the director of Deep Blue Sea, is also on a bit of a comeback. The director of the intense and much acclaimed Distant Voices, Still Lives hadn’t made a film since 2000 until he scored an unexpected success with the quite personal documentary about growing up in Liverpool Of Time and the City in 2008. Davies’ gay sensibility and focus on ‘50s Britain seems to make him the ideal director for Rattigan.

The genres
Romantic melodrama; classic drama; auteur cinema; nostalgia

The premise
It’s 1950 in London. Hester Collyer attempts to commit suicide when her lover Freddie, a former Royal Air Force pilot, forgets her birthday and goes off golfing with friends over the weekend. Having left her very proper and much older husband Sir William Collyer for Freddie, Hester has come to the realization that her lover is a lightweight narcissist who is incapable of loving anyone as much as he loves himself.

In any case, the suicide is unsuccessful but when Freddie returns, he is so appalled with Hester’s nearly fatal gesture that he leaves her instantly. No sooner has Freddie departed than Sir William appears, offering the possibility of reconciliation to Hester. But she’ll have none of it: despite Freddie’s weaknesses, Hester has discovered passion and she can’t do without it.

She finds her life cleft in two: between the devil (of adultery) and the deep blue sea (of the world).