EXQUISITELY photographed and touchingly acted by Rachel Weisz, Terence Davies’ The Deep Blue Sea turns the spotlight on a tragic romantic triangle and sexual repression in early 1950s England.
This adaptation of a play by Terence Rattigan – the making of a film based on another of his works was recently depicted in My Week With Marilyn – opens with Hester (Weisz) turning on the gas jets in the seedy flat where she’s been having an adulterous affair.
Hester is despairing because her lover Freddie, a feckless EX-RAF pilot (Tom Hiddleston), has forgotten her birthday and gone on a ‘‘golfing weekend’’.
It’s just the latest indication the selfabsorbed Freddie can never love her with anything approaching her obsession for him.
Davies’ adaptation obliquely hints that flyboy Freddie may have sexual identity issues but he remains a cipher.
The drama instead focuses on Hester, whose suicide attempt is a cry for help that draws dramatically different responses from men in her life.
An alarmed Freddie pulls further away from the clinging Hester, who chases him through a series of pubs.
Hester’s humiliated, image-conscious older husband, a judge named Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale in a solid, if stagey, performance), is at first angry at this turn of events.
Then he’s genuinely concerned about and ultimately emotionally generous with a woman he clearly still loves.
There’s vivid supporting work by Ann Mitchell as the landlady who interrupts Hester’s suicide, and Karl Johnson as an ex-doctor whom she brings in to treat Hester on the QT (attempted suicide being a punishable offence at the time).
Weisz’s stoic, sexually frustrated and borderline masochistic Hester isn’t as showy as Vivien Leigh’s performance in Anatole Litvak’s fine 1955 adaptation of the play.
Still, she does a fine, understated job within the parameters of Davies’ stripped-down adaptation, which is too restrained to produce a fourhandkerchief classic like Noel Coward and David Lean’s Brief Encounter.
Nor is Davies interested in deconstructing 1950s female-driven romantic melodramas as Todd Haynes did in Far From Heaven.
The image that sticks with you here is a smoky pub where the patrons are singing You Belong to Me.
It’s a rare touch of irony in The Deep Blue Sea.
This is an arty drama that works best as an extremely detailed evocation of that bygone era, when a shellshocked England was still recovering from the wounds World War II en route to the swinging ’60s.
opens at The Arts Centre Gold Coast today.
Tom Hiddleston and Rachel Weisz star in