Not to be confused with Renny Harlin’s splashy actioner about genetically-altered super-sharks, The Deep Blue Sea is an old-fashioned post-war romantic drama. Adapted from Terence Rattigan’s play, it sees an unfulfilled woman (Rachel Weisz, melancholic) choose a handsome WWII pilot (Tom Hiddleston, dashing) over her older husband (Simon Russell Beale, warm), a decision which leaves everyone miserable. Of course, it’s most notable as the first feature in 11 years from distinguished filmmaker Terence Davies – a man almost entirely unknown to the general public but cherished among the British indie-arthouse circuit.
Which gives you a pretty good indicator of what to expect. Opening with a lengthy, wordless sequence which is accompanied by an ear-bombarding classical overture, it’s elegant and finely crafted viewing which arthouse frequenters will likely adore. But while challenging filmmaking is to be admired, The Deep Blue Sea remains so cold and distant throughout that we’re never really engaged. Occasionally, proceedings are livened up by the odd intense exchange, but Davies strips Rattigan’s play to such a bare-bones extent that it feels unsatisfyingly slight, while many of the long, dialogue-free scenes simply drag.
Boasting many of Davies’ familiar tropes (a singalong, long takes, repressed desire), indie fans will love the old-fashioned style (The Deep Blue Sea is as un-modern as possible). But while the soft focus cinematography and performances are excellent (Hiddleston in particular is a stand out), the era feels more depressing than it does nostalgic, whilst we’re kept at such a distance that it’s hard to care. In short, it’s classy, but not especially involving.