This review was originally published on Pol Culture.
Rachel Weisz’s finely wrought, richly expressive performance is the emotional and dramatic center of The Deep Blue Sea, writer-director Terence Davies’ 2011 adaptation of Terence Rattigan's 1952 play. The Rattigan material is a variation on Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. The setting is London in 1950. Weisz plays the wife of an affluent British judge (Simon Russell Beale) who abandons her marriage for an affair with a dashing former RAF pilot (Tom Hiddleston). The film tells the story of the affair in flashbacks. It begins with the heroine’s suicide attempt, and it follows her as she recalls the relationship and looks forward in an effort to save it. Rattigan may have started with Tolstoy, but the men in his love triangle only recall their antecedents upon first glance. The husband ultimately proves a decent, sympathetic man, and the lover, for all his bravado, is a dissolute fellow unable to make the adjustment to civilian life. The heroine only resembles her precursor at first glance as well: she ends up a hopeful figure, not a tragic one. Terence Davies does a marvelous job of realizing the material for the screen. The tonal shifts between the flashbacks and the story’s present tense are beautifully orchestrated. He even includes a movingly ironic homage to the train-station climax in Tolstoy’s novel. The three main performances complement each other exceptionally well. Simon Russell Beale’s stolidity and Tom Hiddleston’s surface confidence are each a form of uprightness, and they both offset and frame Rachel Weisz’s exquisitely delicate tremulousness. She returns the favor; her emotional range helps render the dimensions given the male characters. The picture is a lovely piece of work.