In the opening scene of Terence Davies' new film The Deep Blue Sea, Oscar-winning actress Rachel Weisz is a mass of contradictions.
She looks beautiful but seems to be distracted in a fog of discontent and, soon enough, attempts to kill herself. Though she's relieved it doesn't work, it still leaves her torn between her older husband and the dashing pilot whose attentions haven't been spurned.
Weisz's character, Hester, may not have grown up among the privileged class but that's all in the past with her marriage to William, a knighted judge, brilliantly played by the great stage actor Simon Russell Beale. He unabashedly adores her, while all she can muster is wan fondness for him and the comfortable life the arrangement provides. When she meets the handsome but caddish Freddy (Tom Hiddleston), his flirtations are focused and intense and she eventually succumbs without obvious reservations.
Over tea with the judge's elderly elitist mother, who's never really believed Hester was worthy of her son, both William and his mother sense a crack in the marriage and she offers a biting bit of advice to her daughter-in-law: "Avoid passion. It always leads to something ugly." She's partly right, as Freddy's demeanor swings between sexual ardor and being obsessively controlling. And Hester, relishing her rekindled libibo, devises a way to ride both waves.
The film, a series of flash-forwards and reminiscences, is based on a play by esteemed British playwright Terence Rattigan and, though one could imagine seeing it on a theater stage with only two or three set changes, it's the words that matter; the dialogue comes out of the characters' mouths like knife thrusts. Such examples are most prominent in scenes where the dangerously indecisive Hester and the broken-hearted William meet to see how their relationship might be salvaged. "I'll never divorce you," William says, adding with a verbal slash, "I never want to see you again."