Terrence Davies’ new version of Terrence Rattigan’s play “The Deep Blue Sea,” opening this weekend, has something for everyone. For women: a passionate, dark, tumbling doomed love affair full of heart break and despair. For men: Rachel Weisz.

The film starts with a shot of foggy 1950 post war London Town. As we peek through the window of a simple room, our fated heroine drops coins into a gas heater and then turns it on. She has already swallowed a considerable number of pills and settled back to pass away. We’re in Rattigan land now.

This damsel in distress is Hester Collyer, a confused, lovely young woman who finds herself in a comfortable, all laced up and proper marriage to Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale.) But Hester is not happy in this tea and crumpets world. Something beneath her pale-skinned surface gnaws at her. Rachel drinks a bit and chain smokes a good deal. Of course, we’re not surprised. Who would be?

This is full-blooded Weisz in a role, despite her uncanny ability to overcome the odds, that is not at all suited to her.

The problem is of course, Sir William, splendidly played by Beale. Sir William is a creature carved out of the cliché British nobility. He is sweet, but bloodless, educated and cultured, but clueless when it comes to dealing with someone like Hester. Sir William is a sensitive child-man with apron strings cutting off the blood to his libido, which gives us Sir William’s mother (Barbara Jeffords.) Mum is colder than a cast iron London sewer cover, and crueler than an Inquisition priest’s whip.

Mum despises Hester, probably because Mum has read and re-read “The Scarlett Letter,” and suspects that someone with that name can’t be trusted not to flitter about. She’s right, Hester does flitter and we can’t blame her.

She runs into, or afoul of, a dashing, handsome former RAF pilot named Freddie Page. (Tom Hiddleston of “The Avengers”) A RAF pilot named Freddie can always be counted on in movies, to be dashing, and, what Sir Alec Guiness would call, a “bounder.”

Of course Freddie charms her and seduces her. We get some beautifully photographed glimpses of their trysts that look like sculpted pieces, their bodies sleepily entwined but not engaged until Hester, in the light of dawn, leans over and licks his back. That’s my Rachel, and the key to her Hester. You can bet she never licked Sir William’s back.

Hester’s gates are now fully down, and she ties her future to Freddie, who of course, turns out to be a proper bounder, a boozing pub crawler with no visible means of support. We can see early on the 98 minutes allowed to us, that nightingales won’t be singing in Barkley Square for Hester anytime soon.

If it all seems a bit familiar, it’s because a 1955 version of “The Deep Blue Sea” popped upon Turner Classics not long ago, an Anatol Litvak directed version of Rattigan’s play that starred the impossibly great Vivien Leigh as Hester and the chipper Kenneth More as Freddie, topped off by Emlyn Williams as Sir William. Now there’s a cast.

“The Deep Blue Sea” gives us, as is expected, a splendid cast of actors. Beale and Jeffords, as mother and son, are especially good, as is Hiddlestone. And then there is Weisz at the center of things. It should be noted that many of the top film critics are raving about “Deep.”

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.


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