Oh my, this film is a bit good.
Terence Davies is a film maker whose talents I cannot and will not deny, but whose films occasionally leave me undecided (see the Distant Voices Still Lives review from this year as a prime example) has taken Terence Rattigan's post war play and created a stunning and stylised evocation of not only that dreary drab and austere period of British life but also created a film that looks and feels as if it was made in the period it was set. Everything from his classic direction (which includes the trademark folk singalong scenes, songs that take on extra meaning in terms of the plot) the acting, the costume and set design, the soporific cinematography's brownish glow (Florian Hoffmeister, take a bow) and the beautiful unashamedly in keeping concerto score from Simon Barber makes this feel like a film of the late 40s/early 50s. More, Davies has coaxed from the original play links to other doomed romance classics like Brief Encounter and a portent for the ruthless, self absorbed characters in the angry young man era of films that were to come. In doing so, he keeps the adaptation faithful not just to the source but to the period, as was expressed in other plays and films too, but also fresh, whilst his use of unconventional chronology also helps keep the staginess at bay too.
Much is rightly said about Rachel Weisz's stunning, thoughtful and utterly engaging central performance as Hester, the woman caught between the devil and the deep blue sea alluded to in the title. The devil is the Marvel moneymaker and posh boy pin up Tom Hiddleston, the very definition of 'a shit'. He is the unfeeling, sexually voracious former Battle of Britain ace who turns Hester's head away from her older, unresponsive husband Sir William, the embodiment of the cold deep blue sea of The Establishment and 'the done thing' that is drowning her sense of vitality, passion and life spirit. Simon Russell Beale plays the cuckold and, for my money, he's the best thing in the film - which is a big compliment when you consider the performances of the other two leads.
Russell Beale can give you everything with just one glance and will have you feeling annoyance in one scene and sympathy immediately after. His wounded expressions are beautifully conveyed and continues to justify my belief that he is one of this countries finest, most genuine actors.
Don't be put off by the non linear aspect Davies has chosen for the film, it's relatively easy to follow and for all that, the film symmetrically ends just as it begun - only this time the gesture is both simple, unforgettable and above all, inspiring of hope for the future.