A movie about depression and a depressing movie are creatures that should not be confused.
Deep Blue Sea succeeds, for the most part, in being a film focused on the unfortunate and sometimes fatal condition that doctors now call a disease. Through the prism of 1950s England, it tries to show how blind passion, guilt and helplessness – augmented by a wounded culture — can make rubble out of the mind’s marble columns.
At its best, the movie’s awkward and difficult conversations make you want to break your fingers. However, there are moments when the Deep Blue Sea’s subject becomes an unfortunate reality. The over-the-top sentimentality of the nostalgic soundtrack only carries cigarette smoke, shadows and a pretty woman so far. It’s somewhat embarrassing to say, but I found myself actually rooting for depression. If this chick kills herself, I thought, something a bit more interesting might happen, and, as a bonus, we can mop up all this moping.
But that couldn’t happen. If it did, the movie couldn’t tell the story of Hester Collyer, a posh lawyer’s wife who falls in love with a war-scared and charismatic young gentleman of relatively lower origins. Hester, played by the outrageously lovely Rachel Weisz, leaves her wealthy, older husband due to the fact that he doesn’t put out – that is, physically please her. So she falls madly in love with the charming Freddie Page.
Hester’s new darling gives her what she’s looking for, but he doesn’t love her. Hester knows this yet tries — with all the force of her passion — to live with him. But when he forgets her birthday, she dissolves in sadness, shame and self-hatred. Hester tries to pull an adapted Sylvia Plath, fails and ends up looking like a fool held together only by the spectral foundations of her upper-class accent.
And perhaps the accent was the root of my disappointments. Perhaps Deep Blue Sea’s Englishness is the reason I found it somewhat hard to fall into. Being set post-WWII, the movie deals with feelings, issues and concepts close to the English identity. Class is one of these. A lost empire is another. And there is the war itself.
Indeed, the struggle of war redeems the movie a little. There is a lovely flashback scene in which Hester and her husband (the lawyer) take shelter from Nazi airstrikes in London’s underground train tunnels. In the semi-darkness of one huge shot-, children curl up in blankets using train tracks for pillows; older folks play cards, read and smoke; and a man sings some ballad about a girl selling mussels from a wheelbarrow that is perfectly punctuated with the chorus: “Selling them alive! Alive, oh! Alive, oh!”
For one or two beautiful scenes, some movies are worth seeing. But Deep Blue Sea isn’t one of them. Perhaps if it wasn’t so focused on Hester’s rather vapid emotional struggles, it would be more engaging. An affair, even a passionate one, has never been uncommon; and watching a beautiful woman kill herself over something so boring is hard to watch for mostly the wrong reasons.
Deep Blue Sea is directed by Terence Davies. It’s playing at the Edina Cinema.