The idiom “between the devil and the deep blue sea” describes a choice between two undesirable situations. In Terence Davies’ new film, “The Deep Blue Sea,” the celebrated director invites his audience to witness this as two people pay a high price for their indiscretions.
As the film opens, Hester Collyer (Oscar winner Rachel Weisz) is in the throes of committing suicide. Her selfish lover, Freddie Page (Tom Huddleston), has opted to play golf with his mates rather than celebrate her birthday; or so she thinks. Her radical reaction to his shenanigans is a clear indication of how one-sided and dysfunctional their relationship is.
Hester’s mother-in-law-from-hell (deliciously played by Barbara Jefford) passes on a tidbit of wisdom to her, stating, “Passion always leads to something ugly.” It’s a foreboding remark, because Hester leaves her loving yet passionless husband, Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale), for his friend, the penniless former Royal Air Force pilot, aforementioned, Freddie. Throwing caution to the wind of passion, Hester seals her fate.
Weisz (“The Constant Gardener”) gives an Oscar-caliber performance as a woman obsessed by a man whom she knows can never love her equally. Witnessing the loss of dignity so central to her character, one can’t help feeling the immense pain she endures. The extreme talent Weiz possesses exquisitely manifests in her facial expressions, tone of voice and body language. Her commitment to passion is shear perfection and a joy to behold.
Davies (“The House of Mirth”) has not only assembled a grand cast, he paints a beautiful picture. Darkly lit rooms, golden, grainy shots and intertwined, naked bodies seem worthy of framing.
Set in 1950, England is still recovering from the Blitzkreig. There’s a flashback of Londoners huddled beneath the city in the Underground as the Nazis bomb from above. It’s incredibly moving as a soldier sings “Molly Malone.” Flash-forward: The ruins ironically analogous to their personal circumstances surround Hester and Freddie.
“The Deep Blue Sea” conjures up memories of other great films about unbridled passion. I was secretly hoping for a jump onto the train tracks or a mouthful of arsenic. But, alas, in the end we’re left with a dose of hope.
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