Before you even think to ask, no, this is not a low-budget remake of the 1999 Renny Harlin shark slasher movie that, amongst other things, starred LL Cool J as a tough as nails chef who tried to defend himself from the attacks of an ultra-intelligent killer shark armed with nothing but a kitchen frying pan. No, this is the other The Deep Blue Sea, the most recent feature film adaptation of the 1952 Terence Rattigan play about the human condition, set in post-World War II London. It’s a story about love, passion, adultery, seeking of happiness, and lastly, of loss and letting go, beautifully wrapped around a single day aftermath of the failed suicide attempt of the central character Hester, played by the talented Rachel Weisz.
As the story unfolds through a series of brief flashbacks, we slowly learn the circumstances that drove Hester to try and end her life. Trapped in a loving, but otherwise passionless and empty marriage, Hester by chance ends up enamored with a dashing war hero Freddie, played by the enchanting Tom Hiddleston, and the two began a sexually intense, fiery physical affair to fill the void in Hester that her unhappy marriage had created. But as it tends to be with fire, eventually you get burned. After Hester’s husband discovers the affair, Hester is forced to leave behind the comforts of upper class luxury, and move into a small, modest flat with Freddie, a move that is more than a little scandalous in this period of time. Although Hester willingly embraces this chance to create a happy new life for herself with Freddie, the fire in their relationship inevitably falters, until there barely is a spark left, leaving Hester emotionally broken and alone as the relationship progressively turned more and more sour, ultimately resulting in Hester’s attempted suicide. It’s a touching story, filled with raging emotions as well as sexual heat and intensity. I cannot emphasize enough how good Rachel Weisz is in this film. It’s a difficult role due to the emotional scale required, but she nails it perfectly every single time. There is never a misstep or a moment of awkward tone deafness in her portrayal of Hester. Weisz has that certain innate, palpable vulnerability in her performance that really strikes a chord with you, and makes you eager to sympathize with her plight.
Surprisingly, the most memorable scene in the movie barely has anything to do with the tumultuous love affair between Hester and Freddie at all. Instead it’s the slow, gloomy rendition of “Molly Malone” being sung in the London Underground during a flashback sequence set during the heart of the London blitz. Not only is the scene quite sombre and beautifully captures the British fighting spirit in a subtle, humane way as people join the song as dust is falling from the ceiling and the haunting noise of Nazi bombs exploding echoes in the background, it also as conveys the visceral melancholic side of the war and in a way, also works as an interesting symbolic reflection of the state of Hester’s marriage before she encounters Freddie: you put on a strong face and try to bear with it like a trooper, but inside you are suffering and living in anguish. In fact, the usage of music throughout the movie is exceptionally well handled. It is repeatedly utilized brilliantly to build dramatic tension to key scenes, symbolizing the strong waves of the emotional storm coursing inside Hester’s heart.
Suffice to say, I enjoyed watching this film enormously. It not only left me with a desire to get my hands on the play and read it, but also see it performed on stage some day, if the opportunity ever presents itself. At its core, The Deep Blue Sea is an brief, intimate affair that excites you just like it does Hester as she thrusts herself into the passionate arms of newly found love, only to find it bittersweet as disappointment rears its ugly head after things don’t pan out and you do not get as happy of an ending as you would fancy. That said, there is some nice symbolism involved with the ending of the film, once Freddie and Hester have said their last words, and the film starts to draw itself to a close. You can interpret Hester opening the drapes in the flat and letting the light in while she looks outside to represent Hester’s final self-realization and acceptance of the state of her life, and you could draw conclusions that this is in itself a happy ending as she has come to terms with what has happened and now she directs her sight to the bright tomorrow in the form of the start of a new day. But rather than end here, the film still continues and we get a subsequent long tracking shot where the camera slowly moves down the street from Hester’s flat and turns to focus on the remains of a nearby house that probably was bombed during the war, and you begin to wonder. Does this possibly signify more disaster for Hester in the future, or might it just be another positive symbol, meaning a new start from scratch? Perhaps signalling that it is a time for rebuilding, like London was rebuilt after the war? Food for thought.