Movie Review: “The Deep Blue Sea”—An Angry Young Woman’s Film

Written by Brent Holmes June 24, 2012

During the post World-War II era, British literature and film developed an angry young men narrative which featured young working class men who rebelled against societal norms. While from a film structure, “The Deep Blue Sea” is not similar to this movement, the film’s narrative is very much a female equivalent to it.

All the cinemas a stage

“The Deep Blue Sea” is adapted from a play of the same name. At times, this fact is quite noticeable. The number of interior scenes greatly outweighs the exterior scenes and it does provide a smooth sense of entrapment. The film follows a day after Hester  (Rachel Weisz) attempts suicide the night before.

Rachel Weisz gives a good performance as usual. Tom Hiddleston plays her RAF pilot lover Freddie Page and looks too much like Michael Fassbender in some shots. Hester’s husband, Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale) is a compassionate character, who gives a few great scenes towards the end of the movie.


Jane Error

Over the course of several flashbacks leading up the suicide attempt, Hester is revealed to not have been happy with her life with Freddie. While sexually liberated, Hester is now trapped in a world without any sense of order. Her husband likewise provides no immediate alternative in her mind.

Part of the problem with this story is that the battle between reason versus passion is not well explored here. William’s selflessness seems an ideal alternative to Freddie’s angry outburst and pursuit of his own happiness. One supposes that the latter is better in the sack, but even if it were a man’s story, choosing sex over rationality is a really stupid idea.

Here passion seems to be a force which burns down the house while trying to live in it.


Feminism in Post WWII Britain

One of the harder questions to deal with in “The Deep Blue Sea” is the approach to feminism. The narrative does seem to be one of female liberation, but at the same time director Terence Davies is showing both Freddie and William to be sympathetic characters. William clearly loves Hester, but lacks the ability to express it as she desires. Freddie does not seem to love Hester, but can give her what she wants.

Conversely, “The Deep Blue Sea” can also be seen through its tackling of passion and reason—a recurring theme within British art. The story set in post-WWII London has a sense where passion is winning out due to the end of the British Empire, making it a presentation of the ideas talked about in Denys Arcand’s “The Decline of the American Empire”

Angry Young Women

Ultimately, the film doesn’t give much to work with, while Hester is an interesting character, her struggle between passion and reason is defined relative to men, undercutting its feminist themes.

It is important to note, that the Angry Young Men movement was characterised by its losers. The men here were not characters who were noble, smart, and did not do the right thing from a societal viewpoint. Hester is a part of a story where suicide appears to be a solution to the problems of this empty world.


When the Tigers Broke Free

“The Deep Blue Sea” does tackle some interesting ideas. It peaks when it is dealing with reactions to WWII and looking at how this world might look from a woman’s perspective. However, it doesn’t give much else thematically. Passion versus reason has been done, putting this struggle into this setting could provide a much deeper insight than it does. Put simply, there is not much as there could be between the Devil and “The Deep Blue Sea.”

My Rating 6.5/10

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About Brent Holmes

Brent Holmes is a Film Studies and English Major attending Huron University College at the University of Western Ontario where he is working towards a PhD in Film Studies. He currently writes for We Eat Films and The Western Gazette (on the latter, he serves as Arts & Life editor).

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