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The Deep Blue Sea

Sumptuous, suffocating and sentimental in equal parts, it all adds up to a gorgeous whole in Terence Davies’ version of Terence Rattigan’s 1952 play(filmed once before in 1955 starring Vivien Leigh and Kenneth More). It’s an intensely affecting period piece sporting a trio of perfect performances, with Rachel Weisz turning in an outstanding portrayal(one of those early in the year triumphs that Oscar tends to forget by January)as the depressed and suppressed Hester Collyer. Alternately, aiming to touch your heart and periodically rip it out—expect to see this one on my 2012 top ten come year’s end. It’s a heartbreaking triumph.                   I’ve only seen half of Terence Davies 6-film, 24 year resume, but that’s more than enough to prompt me to seek out the other three. His 2000 film version of Edith Wharton’s novel “The House of Mirth” was a heart-rending “ten-best” jewel of that particular year. And his poetic, but underseen, 2008 documentary “Of Time and the City” was an award-winning, critical favorite. He’s no youngster(66 as of this writing), so he didn’t helm his first feature until he was already in his 40’s. No matter I guess, because in an interview on the DVD he seems to have the manic energy of someone half his age. And a youthful passion too. Rachel Weisz is stunningly, classically gorgeous in this—but she’s no waxwork here. Her Hester is dripping with overwrought, melodramatic emotion(the film opens with her attempted suicide), and her desperation reaches multiple peaks throughout the scant 98 minute running time. It feels longer—which is not a knock. The damn thing is just so rich that it takes on the feel of an epic. A flashback scene of Londoners sheltering themselves in an Underground station during a WWII German bombing raid is poignant and teeming with exquisite detail. It also helps define her relationship with her estranged, much older husband(the masterful Simon Russell Beale). And it’s a coin flip as to which a capella group sing will cement itself in your brain longer: “Molly Malone” on the tube tracks, or “You Belong to Me” at a local pub. They are both hauntingly beautiful. The film is set around 1950 and it’s about a love triangle. Hester(Ms. Weisz)has a completely comfortable life with her wealthy spouse, but it is devoid of passion. Hester is also rejected by his overbearing mother(Barbara Jefford). When she meets the younger, dashing, former military pilot, Freddie(a miles from “The Avengers”, Tom Hiddleston), she blossoms like a flower and they begin a torrid affair. Eventually leaving her hubby, William, for the spirited, but destitute and uncultured Freddie, certain realities take hold and work to douse that bright, rapturous flame.               It would have been easy for Ms. Weisz to take a more histrionic approach to this role. But there is a certain studied subtlety to her performance that compliments all concerned. Oh, she lets manic obsession take control on occasion. But her Hester is refined, and she pulls a lot of it inside while still conveying her turmoil. Rachel Weisz is perfection in this film…she actually forces one to recall the legendary Vivien Leigh come to think of it. She smokes a cigarette in a brown room, wearing an emerald robe, looking out a window with a ghost of her reflection facing her. It looks fantastic. And it’s a hypnotic humdinger from Mr. Davies. Once again.       Grade:  A       

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