Not a shark in sight here, unless you count Tom Hiddleston’s unpredictable Royal Air Force pilot, a gorgeous, fine-tailored specimen whose manicured exterior doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t bite on the odd occasion. No, director Terence Davies’ tender love story has nothing to do with the same-named watery horror from 1999. Instead, it’s something of a spiritual sequel to Brief Encounter, the 1945 classic in which a woman is tempted to cheat on her husband with a man she’s met at a train station.
In The Deep Blue Sea, Rachel Weisz’s Hester has already succumbed to that desire, having left her husband (Simon Russell Beale) for dashing young pilot Freddie (Hiddleston). It’s the 1950s, and such scandal is not to be taken lightly – not least as Britain attempts to rebuild itself after the war. Hester doesn’t care, though, readily making a nest with Freddie, even as the passion that burns between the couple threatens to destroy them.
Beginning with a suicide attempt, and ending in an explosion of emotion, The Deep Blue Sea is a period piece that’s as refined as it is surprisingly raw. Though much of the plot takes place in a mere handful of locations – Freddie’s flat, the pub, Hester’s mother-in-law’s – it’s the internal action that really drives proceedings. Having graduated from being chased by mummies, Weisz delivers a fraught and moving performance, while Hiddleston is nothing short of remarkable as a thrill-seeker who’s gotten more than he bargained for.
After helming Distant Voices, Still Lives in 1988, Davies is comfortable working in a war-torn setting. His recreation of a ‘50s England is beautifully handled – replete with a jolly pub sing-along and a poignant segment set in the underground – while his film sagely deliberates the pros and cons of pure unbridled passion. There will be tissues. 4/5