'The Deep Blue Sea': Melancholy portrait of a self-destructive woman

Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston as Hester Collyer and Freddie Page, the charmer for whom she leaves a caring husband. Music Box Films

The beautiful misery of The Deep Blue Sea - Terence Davies' crushing adaptation of Terence Rattigan's 1952 play - is almost too much.

Here is Hester Collyer (Rachel Weisz), a woman who basically throws her life away for the man she loves, and who she knows doesn't love her back.

Married to a magistrate in the London of the early '50s, with the memory - and rubble - of the war still everywhere, Hester falls for Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston), a high-strung charmer who frequents the pubs and can't stop yapping about his glory days in the RAF, fighting the "Jerries."

Hester and Freddie carry on a clandestine affair until, during a weekend visit to her mother-in-law's - a frightful and loathsome upper-cruster, played with frosty disdain by Barbara Jefford - Hester is found out. She's on the phone in the bedroom, back to the door, when her husband, Sir William (Simon Russell Beale), walks in and hears "I love you," spoken softly to someone else. You can see Sir William's heart sink, and you can see the resignation and resolve on Weisz's face - she will leave her older, wealthy, and caring spouse to live alone, waiting in a glum little rooming house for her lover to appear.

The Deep Blue Sea is shot in a gauze of melancholy. It's a meditation on self-destruction and desire, and Weisz gives a heartbreaking performance; her Hester spirals into doom, hungry for the physical pleasures she has found. The actress finds just the right balance: Nothing melodramatic here (and this is all so ripe for melodrama!), just stony fatalism, broken dreams, the terrible solitude, and lots of cigarettes.

Vivien Leigh played Hester Collyer in the 1955 film adaptation of Rattigan's drama. I haven't seen that version, and I'm curious to, but it's impossible now to imagine anyone but Weisz in the role.

Contact Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at www.philly.com/onmovies.


The Deep Blue Sea

Directed by Terence Davies. With Harry Hadden-Paton, Ann Mitchell, Tom Hiddleston, Simon Russell Beale, Rachel Weisz. Distributed by Music Box Films.

Running time: 1 hours, 38 minutes.

Parent's guide: R (for a scene of sexuality and nudity).