Dark side of desire
THIS handsome British period drama, starring Rachel Weisz as a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown, is not to be confused with the 1999 Renny Harlin creature feature of the same name, in which a group of scientists become bait for the super- sharks they have engineered.
But it does pump significantly more blood than your average Terence Davies movie.
The English director is best known for beautifully composed, slightly nostalgic offerings such as Distant Voices, Still Lives, the second film in his autobiographical trilogy.
But his latest work, an adaptation of the Terence Rattigan play about a woman who leaves her aristocratic husband for an affair with dashing World War II pilot Freddie, explores the potentially self- destructive nature of desire.
A 1955 film version starred Vivien Leigh and Kenneth Moore in the lead roles. Weisz’s Hester Collyer – minister’s daughter, judge’s wife – is powerless in the face of her physical obsession for her increasingly distant lover.
In the opening sequence she writes him a note before lying down in front of an open gas vent. So abject is her plight, Hester can’t even get suicide right. A neighbour smells gas and alerts the landlady, whose brusque manner conceals a heart of gold.
When Freddie ( Tom Hiddleston) comes home and realises what Hester has tried to do, he is furious.
Through flashbacks, Davies reveals what has brought his tragic protagonist to this point: her brave or foolhardy decision to leave her fatherfigure husband, a kindly but cerebral and rather spineless creature, for a man with no money and little sense of commitment.
How much of Freddie’s behaviour can be attributed to his experiences as a war pilot and how much is simply innate is a moot point.
The director’s restraint leaves room for us to reflect on Hester’s choices. Weisz, too, holds back in all the right places. It’s a multi- layered performance that stays remarkably faithful to the era in which it is set.