Written and directed by Terence Davies — who performed such duties on 2000’s well-received The House of Mirth and 1992’s The Long Day Closes — the film announces its dreary, depressing nature right from the opening scene, in which Hester Collyer (Rachel Weisz, Dream House, The Lovely Bones) decides she wants to die. So she writes a note, swallows a dozen pills and drifts off to forever after.
In gauzy flashbacks that constitute a majority of the film, we see why: Hester, the daughter of a vicar, is trapped in a sexless marriage with a judge several years her senior, Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale, My Week with Marilyn). She, however, is in love with Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston, currently sporting horns as Loki in The Avengers), a Royal Air Force pilot who fought in the Battle of Britain.
Freddie loves her, too, thinking her “the most beautiful woman alive.” Luckily, he tells her, the government “can’t ration love.”
Their happiness is short-lived, naturally. When William learns of the affair, he vows never to grant Hester a divorce, yet never wants to see her again, either. And with Freddie being flighty and full of passion, he’s far less the dependable, settle-down type that the buttoned-up William is.
Davies doesn’t quite have a handle on his own script, as events appear jumbled — you’re never quite able to detect the flashbacks’ seams, which can be frustrating. So is the pace, which redefines languid and makes the recent Melancholia — also about a deeply depressed woman — look like Run Lola Run by comparison.
If there’s something he gets right, it’s in allowing us to hear the details. So hushed are the characters that the crackling fire and ticking off a clock register at the same volume as Weisz and company. The blaze in particular bears more personality.
Even an actress as fine as Weisz can’t make The Deep Blue Sea anything but a well-intentioned bore. No matter who would be in her role, it’s hard to like a film that presents such a bleak view of love: “You know what real love is? It’s wiping someone’s ass.” —Rod Lott
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