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The Deep Blue Sea

Directed by Terence Davies

UK, 2011

Cornerhouse, 26 November 2011

The Deep Blue Sea

The English do do sex sometimes, as Terence Davies’ adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s play makes clear.

Here it comes wrapped up with class (of course), two species of suicide (attempted and implicit) and vivid period detail (including old money and bitter in glasses with handles).  The play is set in the post-war period; at a guess, I’d say late ‘40s or early ‘50s.

Perhaps you could best describe it as Brief Encounter meets I Am Love, or as an answer to the question, ‘What would have happened if Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard had spent the night in his colleague’s flat in town?’  At any event, it is a wonderful film, the quotidian glitter of ration-ridden Britain lovingly recreated and as beautiful to look at – if that were at all possible – as Rachel Weisz herself.  She plays Hester Collyer, an upper-class dame who falls for Freddie (Tom Hiddleston), a working-class pilot.

If there is one qualm it’s that Freddie’s FUBAR outburst in the art gallery is at odds with the rest of film.  On the other hand, Mr Miller’s bolshie outburst towards Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale) is of a piece with the period (the falling away of deference, the building of a land fit for heroes and all that) and absolutely priceless.  Karl Johnson plays Miller, by the way.   He’s a terrific actor.

Yet in the most moving scene the lines are not so much understated as unstated – you’ve got to read between them, as so often with Rattigan, which is what makes him such an infuriating yet rewarding playwright.  They come when Freddie is scolding Hester for her foolishness.  He lets slip that he’s going off to become a test pilot, even though his nerves have been shot by the war.  Now I ask you, how dark an irony can you get?