By Barry Paris / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The curtain rises on Hester’s methodical preparations, to the exquisite strains of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto: She closes the curtains in her dingy London flat, stuffs a towel under the door, puts a note on the mantelpiece, swallows some pills, inserts coins in the gas meter, turns on the valve, lies down and drifts off as it hisses. …
There will be a rude awakening — more than one, actually — in this somber adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s “The Deep Blue Sea,” a play literally and figuratively dated to England’s postwar doldrums of 1950. Its heroine is Hester (Rachel Weisz), attractive young wife of an older gentleman-judge, Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale). The story plays out in sporadic flashbacks: One night in a raucous pub, she meets dashing Freddie (Tom Hiddleston), an RAF pilot still obsessed by the war.
Freddie is stuck in his heroics of the ’40s. She’s stuck in a sexless marriage, with her mother-in-law from hell (a fabulous monster, played by Barbara Jefford). They spar nastily at dinner. “I’m sure Hester didn’t mean to be impolite,” Sir William apologizes to mum.
We’re sure she did.
In any case, William is stunned when she leaves their life of luxury to move in with fickle, faithless Freddie, who awakens her sexuality but can’t give her the love or stability that William did — and that she didn’t want.
Like most of Rattigan’s dramas (“The Winslow Boy,” “The Browning Version”) “The Deep Blue Sea” (previously filmed in 1955 with Vivien Leigh) is upper-middle-class based, full of understated and misunderstood emotions. He was more of an Annoyed than an Angry Young Man of his generation — not my favorite playwright. But he gave us several wonderful screen adaptations of his plays, namely “Separate Tables” (1958), with David Niven’s Oscar-winning performance, and the deliciously oddball “Prince and the Showgirl” (1957) starring that deliciously odd couple of Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe. Plus the great-fun original script of “Yellow Rolls-Royce” (1964).
By Clint O’Connor, The Plain Dealer
“The Deep Blue Sea” should have been much better than it is. It features the wonderful Rachel Weisz as a married woman tormented over her affections for her lover, played by the terrific Tom Hiddleston. It’s smart and subtle and nicely evokes its era of postwar Britain.
But ultimately, it does not satisfy. We never quite crack the code of these characters, and their emotional arcs are left floating on the surface, despite the title.
The film is based on the play by Terence Rattigan. Director Terence Davies (“The House of Mirth”) eliminated a lot of superfluous characters and stripped down the story to Hester and her two men, but mostly Hester.
By Sally M. Hill / movie reviews / Your Houston News
Director Terence Davies’ “The Deep Blue Sea” is in no way related to Renny Harlin’s “Deep Blue Sea.” Harlin’s “Sea” is about mutant, killer sharks.
Davies’ is an atmospheric, richly detailed tale of woman who follows her heart even as it leads her to doom. And unlike Harlin’s silly film, this is a moving and serious movie, which is perfectly acted, especially by Rachel Weisz. She’s worthy of an Oscar nomination.
Davies (“The Long Day Closes,” “The House of Mirth”) adapted the screenplay from Terence Rattigan’s play, which premiered in 1952 in London. It was made into a movie starring Vivian Leigh in ’55. I did not know it was from a play while watching, but I figured it might be, partially because it’s a bit stagey, but mainly because the dialogue is terrific. You don’t hear these kinds of conversations in movies much these days unless the source material is from a play or fine literature.
With a movie as deliberately paced as “Sea,” there’re many opportunities to pay attention to all the meticulous details, the floral wallpaper, the lamps, the clothes, the still war-scarred streets of London and most of the music is perfect, although the loud strumming of Samuel Barber’s “Concerto for Violin” is a bit much. What I will always remember most about “Sea,” besides Weisz’s terrific acting, are the scenes of people singing “You Belong To Me” (a great song) in a pub and “Molly Malone” in a subway station during the war.
My main problem with “Sea” is that it’s meant to be heartbreaking, but I just found it interesting … the things people do for love. If you want heartbreaking see “The Kid with a Bike.” “Sea” takes place in London “around 1950.” The around is a clue that there will be many flashbacks, even though all the main action takes place in a day. Davies is not a fan of linear story telling.
Weisz (“The Mummy,” best supporting Oscar winner for “The Constant Gardner”) plays Hester Collyer, a woman who is distraught that her lover doesn’t return her all consuming affection. She has left her proper, older husband (Simon Russell Beale), a judge, for dashing former Royal Air Force pilot Freddie Page, played extremely well by Tom Hiddleston (“Thor,” “Midnight in Paris,” “War Horse”). Freddie may be more exciting than her husband, but he’s a shallow alcoholic whose best days were during the war.
Hester just can’t seem to help herself as she throws away her boring, but safe and comfortable life for one of passions that can’t be matched. For her, Freddie is, “The whole of life … and death.” As the judge’s insufferable mother states, “Beware of passion it always leads to something ugly.” For Hester, this is true as she is suicidal, which just makes Freddie angry, while her husband becomes sympathetic to her plight.
Love and passion may be timeless, but the movie, like the play, is very much of a time. In the 50s it was scandalous for a vicar’s daughter to leave a caring, decent husband … just because she wanted to follow her heart. She’s between the devil and the deep blue sea, which does she pick?
Author: Dave Calhoun
Time Out London London Film Festival 2011
This is Terence Davies’s first drama since ‘The House of Mirth’ in 2000. It’s another literary adaptation, this time of Terence Rattigan’s 1952 play about a middle-class woman, Hester (Rachel Weisz), who tries and fails to commit suicide in a London flat after leaving her kind but unpassionate husband, William (Simon Russell Beale), and being rejected by her volatile lover, ex-RAF pilot Freddie (Tom Hiddleston).
This is a tragedy of romantic cul-de-sacs as we witness Hester’s failed couplings and the gulf between what she desires and what life serves her. It’s a haunting exploration of the emotional glass ceiling that hung above many in 1950s Britain. ‘The Deep Blue Sea’ also harks back to Davies’s autobiographical features, ‘Distant Voices, Still Lives’ (1988) and ‘The Long Day Closes’ (1992) in its jigsaw approach to time, sensitivity to the sights and sounds of post-war Britain and keen eye for domestic tragedy, even if the social landscape is more upscale. There is more than a hint of the 1950s British cinema that so inspires Davies and one scene has Weisz channelling Celia Johnson’s railway moment in ‘Brief Encounter’.
Davies has written a superb scene – not in the play – which features Hester and William taking tea with his dragon of a mother. ‘Will you be going to Wimbledon this year, mother?’ asks William – a judge at work but a mouse in her presence – not long before she shoots Hester one of her putdowns: ‘Oh, you’ve put the milk in first!’ Pauses and absences hang horribly in the air, as they do through much of the film.
But not all the film is so successful. Taken alone, the performances are strong: Russell Beale is excellent as the infuriatingly calm William and Hiddleston convinces as the infantile, jolly and blinkered Freddie, a man living out the war in his head and barely aware that Hester may be upset let alone suicidal. Weisz is good at portraying how Hester struggles to find comfort in social situations, whether at a sing-along in a pub or at tea with William’s mother.
Yet there’s something about ‘The Deep Blue Sea’ that feels too studied and precious, a knock-on perhaps of the formality and emptiness of the relationships at its heart. It’s not as moving as it looks. It’s sad as a story and deeply evocative as a period piece, but it fails to take a tight grip on the heart in the way that the best of Davies’s films have and this one really should.
Geeks of Doom reviewed Dream House:
Jim Sheridan‘s Dream House is a distorting and turning journey of mind-bending proportions, taking elements of popular horror fiction and re-energizing them as 21st century psychological thriller fares. Featuring Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, it takes some unexpected detours, complete with some commendable performances.
(A side note: Before I do continue though, let me preface the rest of this review with the fact that I did not see any trailers for Dream House before seeing the film. I’ve been told that Morgan Creek films blew it by including some significant plot revelations in the trailer, so I went into the film fresh – so if you’re interested in seeing this movie, avoid all the trailers!)
Not even Anthony Hopkins and Rachel Weisz can save Peter Morgan’s creaky, cliche-ridden ensemble drama
Peter Morgan likes making daisy-chains. His script for Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter, which premiered at Toronto last year, was also a roundelay in which fate engineers three ghost-fixated folk to bump into each other at a Derek Jacobi book signing in Ally Pally. It wasn’t good. But compared with 360 it was a work of genius.
The two theses on offer here are that sex informs many of our decisions and, when you think about it, we’re all a bit connected, y’know? With a nod to Arthur Schnitzer, on whose La Ronde this is vaguely based, 360 (geddit?) kicks off in Vienna where a businessman, played by Jude Law, is married to a woman (Rachel Weisz) who’s cheating on him with a photographer who’s unfaithful to his girlfriend.
She runs into Anthony Hopkins, who’s off on a plane to see if a corpse is that of his long-missing daughter, and also a recently released rapist grappling with the outside word. Then there’s the Bratislavan novice prostitute Law hopes to hire, her sister, a Russian mobster, his sympathetic driver, his unhappy wife and her smitten Muslim dentist boss.
The pitfall of ensemble drama is that any strands that do engage are over too soon and, if mishandled, the condensed nature of each story takes its toll on potential subtlety. Characters become cogs; plots creak with pre-determination. Anyone who’s meant to be bookish is given an enormous tome to lug about, plus a rictus grimace of distaste in the face of insensitivity. Russian mobsters and eastern European pimps are evil, tarts have hearts, cheating hubbies get their comeuppance.
It’s a two-hour slog stuffed with shortcuts, populated by puppets who must indulge in behaviour that isn’t just off-kilter, it’s off the wall. One gorgeous young woman chats up our secret sex offender in an airport then practically forces him to sleep with her. “Met someone really cute,” she writes in a note to a friend. But objectively speaking this man ain’t a cutie. Not only is he plain unfriendly, he’s straight from the “just-released rapist” drawer at central casting, with his big twitches and dreadful hair.
The sole breath of plausibility is Hopkins. But director Fernando Meirelles, who now looks to have lost his way wildly since City of God, over-indulges him, apparently allowing free rein to improvise. One chucklesome anecdote about a Jesuit priest, delivered to a rapt audience of AA members, is particularly weird – as if they’ve suddenly spliced in some footage from Parky.
All this would be more excusable if the payoff was memorable but 360′s conclusions seem suited more to tea-towels than art. The two we’re given here are – and I quote – “you only live once” and “fuck it”. Let’s hope they patent those pronto.
Terence Davies deftly adapts Terence Rattigan’s acclaimed play The Deep Blue Sea to craft an elegantly staged, sublimely moody, tale of painful love all set against the backdrop of post-War London as people struggle to rebuild their lives. The setting will be a familiar one to admirers of Davies’ work, while a moving lead performance by Rachel Weisz should guarantee appreciative attention.
That postwar era provides a familiar setting for Davies, whose acclaimed films Distant Voices, Still Lives and The Long Day Closes were also set in that period, and while those films were rich in atmosphere and staging, with The Deep Blue Sea the pain and pleasure of love is at the fore in Rattigan’s moving and uncompromising story of a woman’s fear of loneliness and the unreliable nature of love.
2011 marks the centenary of the birth of Terence Rattigan, whose plays dwelt on British insecurities about sex and class, and The Deep Blue Sea is regarded as his masterpiece with its love triangle reflecting the state of the Nation in the early 1950s as the country attempted to find its feet after the War, with the Nation rebuilding and still in a time of rationing.
The love triangle in The Deep Blue Sea is between Hester Collyer (Weisz), the beautiful wife of high court judge Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale) and Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston) a young ex-RAF pilot with whom she has fallen passionately in love. Terence Davies has worked on the original story to focus it entirely from Hester’s point of view, and with the use of carefully framed flashbacks draws the viewer into the relationships from her perspective.
Part thriller and part harrowing account of an outrageous, based-on-facts story of official corruption in the former Yugoslavia, “The Whistleblower” is a tense and shattering drama.
The name Kathryn Bolkovac might be familiar to anyone who has heard her accusations over the years that operatives from a United Nations peacekeeping force and an American military contractor, DynCorp International, were involved with sexual slavery in postwar Bosnia.
British actress Rachel Weisz is a sturdy but vulnerable presence as Bolkovac, a Nebraska cop who joined the U.N. mission in Sarajevo to enforce a 1995 cease-fire. The film’s script, cowritten by first-time director Larysa Kondracki, employs fiction to fill out some details, but the essential facts of Bolkovac’s experience are here.
Appointed head of “gender affairs,” the intrepid investigator discovers a broad network in sex trafficking of young, Eastern European women, lured into enslavement for the exploitation of male peacekeepers and DynCorp employees.
Bolkovac is ignored when she brings this scandal to the attention of her superiors, forcing her to pursue the case alone. Meanwhile, resentment toward her efforts builds, creating a tense atmosphere that makes one worry for Bolkovac’s safety anytime she’s at home or walking to her car.
As a measure of the stifling power of the U.N.’s cover-up, Kondracki brings in a couple of supporting characters who are a bit sketchy but helpfully define what the heroine is up against.
One is an honest but nervous official played by David Strathairn, and the other is Madeleine Rees (a brief but golden performance by Vanessa Redgrave), the real-life human-rights commissioner. Their caution and subdued sympathy toward Bolkovac intensify an air of paranoia.
Kondracki provides glimpses of what sexual slavery looks like, including scenes of women subjected to terror and torture by their minders.
This is not an easy movie to get through, and it certainly casts doubt on the efficacy of well-intended humanitarian missions organized by governments. But Weisz’s role as a dutiful crusader in an all-but-lost cause is a reminder of what one person can do.
When Kathryn Bolkovac, Nebraska police officer and divorced mother of a teenage daughter, signs on to a high-paying job with the United Nations peacekeeping force in Bosnia in 1999, she looks for a fresh start.
What she finds in the squalor of Sarajevo is deeper-rooted and more degrading than ethnic hatred. Even worse, the perpetrators may very well be her colleagues.
“The Whistleblower,” Larysa Kondracki’s uneven debut feature exposing the explosive subject of sex trafficking, derives its strength from Rachel Weisz’s intelligent performance as the real-life Bolkovac.
The empathic professional discovers cells of indentured, mostly underage sex slaves smuggled in from Ukraine. “War whores,” her colleagues call them.
But the war is over. “Half of our men are dead,” says a Bosnian woman sheltering runaway slaves. “So, who do you think these girls are for?”
Bolkovac resists the implication that it’s the men working as United Nations peacekeepers and rebuilders in the former Yugoslavia who are clients of the traffickers pimping the girls. But each thread of evidence she picks up leads to an even more tangled, and disturbing, possibility.
The story, inspired by Bolkovac’s experiences in Bosnia and her subsequent book, is dynamite. Alas, Kondracki’s direction fizzles. Though she elicits a tense and eloquent performance from Weisz, the first-time filmmaker fails to maintain a consistent tone, and her film samples multiple genres.
The handheld scenes of sex workers look as if they were made by an exploitation director. The sequences of Bolkovac investigating the sex traffickers look like outtakes from a horror movie. When Bolkovac stands up to her sexist bosses, Kondracki’s film sweats like a thriller.
Because of the abrupt tonal shifts, Kondracki fails to maintain momentum. To her credit, Weisz does.
SOURCE: Detroit Free Press
World-weary and uneasy, David Hare’s 21st century spooks are office-bound but watchable
by Andrew Pulver guardian.co.uk, Sunday 19 June 2011 22.50 BST
There’s been a lot of talk at Edinburgh this year about the lack of gala premieres, but one film that organisers have secured as a world debut is David Hare’s first directorial effort for 14 years, since The Designated Mourner in 1997. Even though Page Eight is aimed at TV transmission, rather than cinema release, its screening still counts as something of a major event.