The Deep Blue Sea is a period piece chronicling the decline of a depressed woman as she destroys the relationships around her. As the film drags along, director Terence Davies reveals that there is more depth to this story than the all-too-familiar melodrama on the surface. The main problem with The Deep Blue Sea, however, is that it just takes too long to get there.
The film begins in darkness both literally and thematically. We hear Hester (Rachel Weisz) read her poetic suicide note over the opening credits. We then track along a dark residential London street before settling on a modest apartment building and finally ending on the second floor window where Hester stands. A reverse shot takes us behind Hester looking out as she solemnly closes the blinds. It’s an opening that comes across, like most of the film, as heavy-handed and bordering on contrivance. We then follow Hester through one day as she attempts suicide and remembers the poor decisions that got her to this point.
Hester is married to William: a rich, upper-class judge with an impossible mother and an old-world outlook on life and love. She, of course, yearns for something more exciting. After being approached by the young and handsome Tom, Hester quickly begins a passionate affair. When she is inevitably caught, she is neither surprised nor upset because she has no intention of staying with William – it was only a matter of time. She moves in with Tom trading her boring marriage for a new life with Tom: a life with its own set of problems. Where William is quiet and submissive, Tom is hot-headed and often childish.
Hester is a control freak. It is arguable that she is bored with her marriage because it became too easy for her to control William. She is excited by the passion that Tom provides because it is something difficult for her to control. She is exhilarated by conflict. Tom refuses to spend the night with her after a crucial fight because he knows she will keep talking (manipulating). Even though she gives her word, she knows it’s true because she can’t help it.
There’s nothing especially new here but the depth of this story comes from its time and place. It takes place “around 1950” in post-war England. Davies constructs a masterful scene about an hour into the film that brings this historical context into the foreground. The scene is a flashback to a german raid during the war. The subway was filled with people taking shelter from the bombardment. A man solemnly sings “Molly Malone.” The scene has a quiet power as the camera slowly tracks down the tunnel with the singer echoing over the distant sound of the bombing. The scene takes us (and Hester) by surprise demonstrating the immediacy of the memory. Hester and all of the characters are still living amongst the ruins of the war.
Hester is a complex character played quite well by Rachel Weisz. She is restrained but transparent – we identify with her impatience dealing with her resentful mother-in-law and we feel her sadness as she comes to grip with her no-win situation. The music is rhapsodic and beautiful. Davies understands the ability music can have to connect the audience with the mood of the characters. During a pleasant memory of Tom and Hester dancing at a party, Jo Stafford’s “You Belong To Me” takes over the soundtrack for around a full minute offering us an evocative connection to the romantic memory.
This movie is the work of a director who is probably great. I have not yet seen any of Terence Davies’ other films but this one shows many characteristics of a great director. The creation of its few memorable moments almost redeems it from the standard-fare bummer that it ultimately is. Unfortunately, the film seems so dead-set on maintaining a style of maudlin classicism that it fails to become much more than a stylish bore.
5 out of 10
**reposted from my blog (themastershot.worpress.com)