Review: The Deep Blue Sea

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To start, I should point out that this is not the Deep Blue Sea from 1999, in which Samuel L. Jackson was eaten by a genetically-altered shark. Although, this somnambulant film might have been given a well-needed shot of adrenaline with a shark attack.

Based on a play by Terence Ratigan and directed by Terence Davies, The Deep Blue Sea is a study in miniature of three characters in post-war England. Rachel Weisz is Hester, the much-younger wife of a respected judge, William (Simon Russell Beale). However, she is having an affair with a former RAF pilot (Tom Hiddleston). Beale discovers his cuckoldry and leaves her, and Weisz moves in with Hiddleston in his modest apartment.

The film begins with Weisz attempting suicide by taking sleeping pills and turning up the gas. She is found by her landlady, and when Hiddleston returns from a golf outing, he knows nothing about it, until he finds her suicide note. Outraged, he storms out, believing that she tried to kill herself because he forgot her birthday.

Beale, estranged from her, returns to offer his concern, and realizes he is still in love with her. But she still wants Hiddleston.

All of this is presented in an overly serious, lugubrious manner. Davies has an eye for detail, but seems to have lost the big picture–what about this should make us care? Frankly, because I might be dense, I couldn’t figure out why Weisz did try to kill herself–Hiddleston’s explanation is as good as any. And, yes, this is an English picture, but it’s so…English. Though there are some tastefully arranged scenes of amore, I kept thinking of the title of the British comedy, “No Sex, Please, We’re British.”

I will admit the acting is wonderful. Weisz is luminous, despite the lack of character development in the script. And Beale is also terrific, especially in scenes with his domineering mother and two scenes of rapprochement with Weisz.

Rattigan was a very popular playwright. He has had numerous films of his plays, including Separate Tables, The Winslow Boy, and The Browning Version. His centenary last year inspired a lot of tributes, but it’s inescapably true that he was rendered almost instantly obsolete after the “Angry Young Man”
school of British playwrights, such as John Osborne, seized the British
imagination. The Deep Blue Sea doesn’t do anything to change that opinion.

My grade for The Deep Blue Sea: C.

About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

2 responses »

  1. I felt about the same way you did, I suppose.

    The screening I attended had a Davies Q&A afterward, and he said that he made radical changes to the play, getting rid of pages and pages of exposition at the beginning. I’ll take his word for it, but I thought it still felt stagebound to me. For one thing, all of its major emotional currents were expressed via dialogue. And I also thought that, somehow, the actors seemed very theatrical as well, especially Weisz and Hiddleston, but maybe that’s just because they were saddled with all that dialogue. At any rate, the movie didn’t seem very cinematic to me, for the most part (the most major exception being that wonderful tracking shot in the subway tunnel).

    Anyway, have you ever seen Mamet’s The Winslow Boy? I haven’t seen other Ratigan film adaptations that I recall, but I liked that one a lot.

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