Although I was expecting a brittle and dated unhappy love affair, this remake of Rattigan's play proves quite moving up to a point. Set around 1950, the film starts with the attempted suicide of Hester Collyer, privileged wife of a high court judge who has sacrificed her reputation and material comforts to live in a dreary flat with Freddie, a former wartime pilot who beneath his charming veneer is finding it hard to adjust to a mundane life in civvy street .
The plot gradually reveals through a series of flashbacks how Hester has been reduced to despair. At first, it is hard to understand how this beautiful young woman could have married such a stiff man as William Collyer, not to mention the fact he is old enough to be her father. Then we wonder how such a cultured woman can be so infatuated with a man like Freddie who, apart from his thoughtless neglect of her, prefers downing pints and singing along in a working class pub to visiting an art gallery with her or listening to classical music. Is it just a question of passion and lust, applied through fate to a man who cannot make her happy in the long-term?
Although acted with great sensitivity by Rachel Weisz, Hester is an odd mixture of sophisticated self-possession and neediness, and comes across at times as just a "poor little rich girl". By contrast, the two men, ably played by Simon Russell Beale and newcomer Tom Hiddleston reveal complex reactions in a way that eventually arouses as much, if not more, sympathy.
The set plays close attention to period detail, although the Barber score at the beginning is too loud and intrusive, as is too often the case with films, and the flashback to people taking refuge in an underground station during the Blitz is too much of a romanticised tableau.
A modern version of the theme of a married woman forming a passionate physical attachment to an "unsuitable" man is covered with more depth and subtlety in "Leaving", the French drama starring Kristin Scott Thomas. "The Deep Blue Sea" left me feeling rather sad, but a little dissatisfied as if Rattigan's drama had not achieved its potential.