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  Deep Blue Sea, The A Fish With Two Bicycles
Year: 2011
Director: Terence Davies
Stars: Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston, Simon Russell Beale, Ann Mitchell, Jolyon Coy, Karl Johnson, Barbara Jefford, Harry Hadden-Paton, Oliver Ford Davies, Nicholas Amer, Mark Tandy, Sarah Kants, Stuart McLoughlin
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: London around 1950, Lady Hester Collyer (Rachel Weisz) is a very unhappy woman, and at this moment sees no way out of her misery other than suicide. She takes a handful of pills in her dingy flat, then puts money in the gas meter and settles down in front of the fire which she turns on without lighting it, so as to quietly poison herself to death. As she slips into unconsciousness, she remembers the events that have taken her to these drastic measures, where she was married to Lord William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale) yet it was not a happy marriage, and when she met an ex-Battle of Britain pilot called Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston) it sparked a whirlwind romance that saw her relationship with William break up.

But is it enough? The Deep Blue Sea was one of those twenty-first century movies where the lead female character was just too good for the men in her life, a notable downturn in the prospects of both sexes if it meant the women couldn’t find a suitable partner because all the possible candidates were a dead loss. Though you could turn that around and see the women as having such high standards that it would take some unrealistic fantasy figure to satisfy them, and perhaps the problem was with the depiction of true romance in the media as something that had become an impossible goal. Mind you, if you did take that opinion you would be countered by the fact Terence Rattigan had penned the play this was based on back in the mid-twentieth century.

So it could be a case of ‘twas ever thus, rather than a trend whose time had come and was tapping into a malaise in the third millennium. Rattigan had actually been inspired to write by the suicide of his lover in 1949, and wishing to pay tribute he wrote of an unhappy romance, though with the social mindset of the day he turned the character into a woman rather than a man, thus avoiding scandal. As a playwright, he had been the most visible of the fifties in Britain, a huge success – until the Angry Young Men barged in and made his brand of fiction look positively genteel and out of date very swiftly, but he wasn’t entirely dismissed, for though it did feature some terribleh polaite chaps and chapesses, there was a depth of feeling there.

One of those who treasured Rattigan was director Terence Davies, a self-confessed nostalgist for the era he grew up – the nineteen-forties and fifties – who nonetheless had a clear-eyed regard for just how tough those times could be. That sensibility was present and correct in the majority of his work, and this was little different, sensitively recreating the period of post-war struggle in a way that made it looked seductive and forbidding at the same time, and in his star Weisz he found an actress who understood that tension in the material and the role she had undertaken. Flawed as it was, whatever you thought of the film, that it was too slow, too oblique, simply too stuffy, you had to admit she was putting in a stellar performance.

The other two lead actors were really more in support of Hester’s anguish, though nicely cast for all that. We could perceive the shamed William did genuinely love her, while acknowledging he was never a man any woman could get passionate about, indeed it’s difficult to believe they even have a sex life (the couple are childless, for instance), which was what drove her into the arms of the more exciting Freddie. And yet, there too there were issues which we can see when he and his best pal are doing aeroplane impersonations to amuse Hester, but more amusing themselves: he’s a bit of an overgrown schoolboy, and when he learns of her failed suicide attempt it’s enough to send him into a panic, he’s just not made for such devotion. This leaves our heroine in a dreadfully sad situation, much as any number of drama from the forties and fifties fretted over adultery, and there may be a note of optimism struck in the end, but there was, as that final shot indicated, always going to be a bleakness Hester would have to consciously avoid.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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