It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
There is a London I often summon in my imagination, one I've found in movies or novels, which I imagine would lead to a life romantic, sad and poignant. This London is brown. Its air is thick with brown fog, its men dress in brown suits, its women in brown dresses set off with a hat or scarf of red. Street lighting is faded. Many people live in furnished rooms where they feed shillings into a gas meter, and for warmth and a little cheer, flee to pubs where smoke hangs heavily in the air, and dark brown pints of beer are consumed slowly, so that their levels are remembered by rings of foam remaining on the insides of a glass.
This is the London of Terence Davies' "The Deep Blue Sea," set "around 1950," when the damage of wartime bombs still leaves buildings naked to the sky. It is also the cityscape of his autobiographical dramas "Distant Voices, Still Lives" (1988) and "The Long Day Closes" (1992), and his 2008 documentary "Of Time and the City," about Liverpool, the city of his birth. He is about 66, so grew up in the postwar years of scarcity and rationing, when it was said British recipes all advised "boil until gray."
His film is based on a play by Terence Rattigan, a playwright born 100 years ago this year, which tells the story of Hester Collyer (Rachel Weisz), an attractive but inward young woman who is married to Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale), a judge much her senior. The story all takes place on a single day some 10 months after she left her husband for a young lover. He is Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston), an RAF pilot whose usefulness ended with the war. There's something helpless about Freddie that appeals to Hester, whose husband, with his carefully trimmed beard, expensive suits and chauffeured Rolls-Royce, seems forbiddingly stable.
Neither man is a villain. Sir William must be a deeply unhappy man, judging by a painful flashback scene where he dines with his wife and his mother (Barbara Jefford). Every word, every gesture, every intonation of his mother's conversation is designed to exhibit rejection and contempt for her daughter-in-law, and we imagine Sir William himself has been a disappointment to this implacable woman.