The Liverpool-bred writer-director
If that sounds grandiose, well, Davies is that. Yet he works small, either by choice or budgetary necessity, making intimate chamber pieces just outside the boundaries of realism. At his best, this remarkable filmmaker conveys what it's like to remember, the feeling of being lost in a feeling. He's also a wizard at grounding his visions of the past with just the right slivers of documentary detail, lest the whole thing waft away like cigarette smoke: the sound of a coins clinking into a gas meter, for example, or the stunningly drab variety of wallpaper patterns, post-World War II division, so often afforded the last word in a given shot in Davies' fascinating film of the Terence Rattigan drama
When Rattigan premiered the play in London in 1952, the Angry
Davies' film works from the same premise and time frame. But on screen, with the exquisitely cast
Acres of speechifying and expository lather have been cleared away to strip this triangle down to its essence. This allows Davies to accommodate passages such as a wordless prologue in which Hester, in a series of fade-outs, prepares for her unsuccessful suicide mission. Later, in a densely layered array of flashbacks, we glimpse scenes from a marriage — William at his work, Hester sitting alone, a tight smile between them — and then Hester and Freddie in bed, limbs intertwined, as Davies' camera circles above them.
The time, we're told, is "around 1950," and the characters remain prisoners of their experiences during wartime. Freddie was never more fulfilled than he was in 1940, as Hester notes. In one splendid tracking shot (an affecting counterpoint to the ostentatious Dunkirk tableau in
Davies composes this sequence as part of what is very nearly a song cycle. In the Aldwych scene the traditional tune "Molly Malone" is sung, while in a pub scene, Freddie and Hester join the crowd in singing along to
True to Davies' form, much of "The Deep Blue Sea" has a hushed quality. Davies' touch never will be for everyone, but what I love about "The Deep Blue Sea" is the way Davies can take the oldest and potentially dullest visual strategy in the book and make it seem new, even strange. Throughout the film, Weisz (marvelously expressive and conflicted) speaks to Hiddleston or to Beale, in an isolated close-up or medium shot. Then, after a second or two, her fellow actor responds with a line or two, again set off by a tiny bit of space. It's not dead air, exactly, because it works: The actors fill the pause with a look of expectation or dread or regret. Hiddleston has become a familiar face on screen lately, with his soul-of-goodness turn in
This is an extremely deft job of adaptation. Davies has met Rattigan on his own terms. I may be alone in wishing Davies hadn't whomped the material with quite so much Barber, but there you go.
'The Deep Blue Sea' -- 3 1/2 stars
MPAA rating: R (for a scene of sexuality and nudity)
Running time: 1:38