Unrequited love stings. Gabriel Garcia Marquez began Love in the Time of Cholera with the famous line, "It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love." Granted, the bitter almonds line does not convey a lot of gravity to the enormous pit in one's stomach when you realize the immense feelings you have for another person are not returned. On its surface, The Deep Blue Sea focuses on a love triangle where two of the people involved suffer unrequited love and the third is too oblivious or drunk to know what he feels.
The current iteration of The Deep Blue Sea is at least the third go around for its post-World War II London story. It was first a 1952 play by Terence Rattigan and a 1955 film starring Viven Leigh. This time, directed by Terence Davies (best known for another tedious and off-putting film, The House of Mirth (2000)), the scenery of a still bomb-ravaged and ration card saturated London is just as important as its slow and meandering plot. Gabriel Garcia Marquez began Love in the Time of Cholera on a lighter note before diving into the rough waters of depression and rejection. The Deep Blue Sea uses an attempted suicide as its lead-off batter.
Hester Collyer (Rachel Weisz) swallows a bunch of pills and lays down in front of a gas heater to do the deed. Her attempt fails. Why did she do it? The man she is in love with, Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston), lives with her and is still in love with her, but he is not as in love with her as she is with him. He also forgot her birthday. Hester says she did not try to end her life over anything Freddie did or did not do, it is her psyche which drove her to the edge. Freddie is not the most stable and mature guy to handle something as heavy as an attempted suicide, so he immediately runs out of their shabby, rented boarding house room to the local pub when he finds out. Hester then chain smokes her way through an endless supply of smokes to get through the rest of the day.
Collyer is Hester's married name by the way. She is still married to a much older man, Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale), a respected judge and not only has no need for such things as ration cards, but has a hard time understanding why a woman deliberately chooses to jettison a life of ease for something as silly as romantic love or lust. William is very much in love with Hester and frequently stops by her boarding house in his chaufered luxury automobile to see if she has come to her sense's yet. William refuses to grant Hester a divorce, his right in 1950 London, but he is not a very easy character to have any empathy for either. His domineering mother (Barbara Jefford) is so passive aggressively cruel to Hester, she could have run away from her marriage based on her mother-in-law alone.
Hester's attempted suicide makes no sense whatsoever. She is whip-smart; her intellect compared to simple-minded Freddie is a frequent source of consternation between the two of them. She is well aware of Freddie's limitations as a boyfriend and a provider, but she loves him unconditionally or even because of those qualities. She should most likely have expected he would go out golfing with his buddies instead of remembering her birthday. The film's plot and believability is quite thin due to Hester's questionable start. Most of the movie is relayed in flashbacks to explain how Hester arrived at such a low point and even though it is a mere 98 minutes long, it feels much longer than that.
However, there are two instances which make the drudgery of The Deep Blue Sea almost bearable. One is its creative camera work, specifically in a scene in the London underground during a nighttime bombardment in the Battle of Britain. In one long take, the camera starts at one end of an underground platform, tracks across a family sleeping on the tracks, some policemen, a lone singer, and finally ends on Hester and William who are huddled together during the thunder of the bombing and looking quite out of place in their finery. The other is Rachel Weisz's performance. Hester as a character is almost ridiculous, but Weisz is mesmerizing. She shakes, she cries, she stares, she smokes like a chimney, and she dominates every scene she is in easily overshadowing her male co-stars. A Hester sans Weisz may have set up The Deep Blue Sea as one of the worst film's of the year.
The only reason to sit through an updated version of this unrequited love story is if you want to see a well-done, stylized version of post-World War II ravaged London or perhaps if you are a Rachel Weisz fan. Otherwise, stay away from The Deep Blue Sea and get your love triangle fix elsewhere.