The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Burning out or fading away? A film about the life choices we make

with 18 comments

Love. What do we put into this word? Friendship? Passion? Sex? Security? Trust? Is it reasonable to expect a marriage to last a lifetime? Is it possible to love someone who doesn’t love you without losing your mind? Can you put up resistance when you’re about to fall head over heels in love with someone? Should you at least try? Or do you owe it to yourself to go with the flow, embracing the surprises life has in preparation for you?

I’m can’t truthfully say I’ve figured out the answer to all of those questions, but Mrs Hester Collyer, the main character in The Deep Blue Sea seems to be even more at a loss.

She has left a somewhat lifeless but ok-ish marriage to live with another man who she desires. But things haven’t evolved the way she hoped for. It’s a one-sided love, where all she can hope for are small nuggets of attention and the insight crushes her. As the film begins we see her seal a suicide letter and taking some pills, as it soon turns out not sufficient to kill her. But it’s another step towards the definite ending of her crumbling new relationship.

Hester is stuck. The fact that the film takes place in the 1950s England doesn’t make her situation any easier. Alone in a dark apartment, she’s caught in a web, consisting not only of the quandaries of her heart, but of issues about class, gender and views on morality.

She’s desperate for an escape from her current position: “between devil and the deep blue sea”, as her neighbor puts it. And the deep blue sea sometimes looks very inviting.

The choices of life
The Deep Blue Sea is a film about love and about life choices.

Lines such as “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” are easier to sing than to follow in practice. It sounds so good while you’re burning – or when you’re playing with the idea to get on fire one day. But eventually you’ll reach a point when the fire isn’t as warm as it used to be and when it’s vanished you’re left with the cold and the darkness and a memory that doesn’t provide any heat, just pain.

Did Hester do the right thing following her heart? That’s an open question. Her former husband seems to be a decent guy. His biggest fault is that he doesn’t stand up against his horrendous, annoying bitch of a mother – hardly a reason to dump anyone. On the other hand it’s obvious that Hester with her lover has experienced crazy, mindblowing sex for what appears to be the first time in her life. Isn’t it understandable that she wants to experience this at least once in her lifetime? And if her husband couldn’t provide that, what other choice did she have?

In the end I think it’s the neighbor who provides the best description of the nature of love:

“A lot of rubbish is talked about love. Do you know what real love is? It’s wiping someone’s arse or changing their sheets when they’ve wetted themselves – and then let them keep their dignity so you can both go on.”

Neither of the two men in Hester’s life fits into this. Her former husband values his spot in the social hierarchy more than real closeness to his wife. I can’t imagine him ever letting her wipe him. And her new love, suffering from mental injuries after the war, shies away from anything that resembles to real intimacy and dependency.

Will Hester ever ascend from the deep blue sea where she’s been dwelling? Will she breath again, will she find real love in her life, someone who she’s attracted to at both a physical and intellectual level, someone who loves her back and someone in whose company she wants to grow old?

When I see her pull away the curtains, finally embracing the sunlight and the world outside, something tells me that she will.

The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies, UK, 2011) My rating: 4,5/5

Written by Jessica

October 4, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in The Deep Blue Sea

18 Responses

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  1. In one of my favourite series (Deverry, by Katherine Kerr) a rather fierce young woman says to a kindly old man “It’s like having only so much firewood. Some people eke out a stick at a time so they have a puny fire all night. Others like to heap it up and have a good roaring blaze while it lasts”. The old man replies “And then they freeze to death”. The young woman is momentarily nonplussed, but then continues “Well, I didn’t pick the best way of saying that did I? Or, here, it’s good enough. Not freeze to death – then they throw themselves into the fire”.

    As a way of describing self-destructive behaviour, it seems fairly apt.


    October 5, 2012 at 1:05 am

    • Oh, I loved those lines! I’ve never read anything by Katherine Kerr. I probably should.


      October 5, 2012 at 10:02 am

  2. I think I am in the minority here, but I didn’t really like this film. I found it too stiff upper lip and at arms length for me to connect to any of the characters… but I did see it just after SHAME at a festival last year.

    • Fair enough! We can’t agree about everything. But then I’m a sucker for stiff upper lip British movies. This made me think of my favorites from the 90s, Remains of the Day and Shadowlands. All those unsaid words screaming to you from the silence. I just love it!


      October 5, 2012 at 10:01 am

  3. So which is better…Revolutionary Road or Deep Blue Sea?


    October 6, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    • I’m afraid I haven’t seen Revolutionary Road, only read the book (which was great). So I really can’t tell.


      October 7, 2012 at 9:33 pm

  4. Marvelous post, Jessica 🙂


    October 7, 2012 at 12:32 am

  5. I was going to overlook this one Jessica but that a fine write-up and a 4.5 rating has changed my mind. I’ll give this a go.

    Mark Walker

    October 7, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    • That’s good to hear! I think it definitely is worth a viewing. Some very nice acting performances in it and nice cinematography, which I didn’t mention in the review, since it didn’t fit in. But here you go – it’s good!


      October 7, 2012 at 9:34 pm

  6. As you say, Hester is in a dilemma, but I never got to know the characters well enough to find it truly moving. The pain was somehow too rushed. The characters are suddenly in love, suddenly want to die, or suddenly we hear they are married, but we don’t know why, there is no build-up. This is a stylistic choice it would seem.
    Overall, good, but not great in my opinion. Even with things left unsaid to creat tension, to me needed more characterization and more running time so I could care. I think it ‘s normal for one person in a relationship to love more than the other, such is life, we can’t help it, and that was quite powerful. Good review, you got more out of this film than I did 🙂


    October 12, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    • Thanks Chris! Yeah, it clearly hit some chord to me. I thought the unspoken words were powerful enough, in combination with the score and cinematography. It worked for me.


      October 14, 2012 at 4:29 pm

  7. Scott, you’re definitely not the only one. It’s one of those films that is not going to generate as much passion from the people who did not like as the ones who did … I found a certain irony to the proceeding – the theme seeme to center around the ( non-)relationship between love and carnal desire, yet every aspect of the production was so staid. Arty overhead shots aside, I was never convinced Weisz’s character really had any sort of burning love. But then again, this rather talky affair was based on a 1952 play, so maybe I expected too much. Nonetheless, it was way too intellectual when it needed some visceral.


    October 13, 2012 at 11:40 pm

    • I think I’m just a sucker for this kind of restrained emotions that Brits are so good at. It reminded me of Shadowlands and The Remains of the Day, both favorites of mine.


      October 14, 2012 at 4:30 pm

  8. What a gorgeous review! I love the way you looked at the various layers of this movie, including things I didn’t really consider, like issues of class and gender. But yes, these things were definitely there. I love what you said about being a sucker for the restrained emotions Brits are so good at. I couldn’t agree more. I’m adding you to my feed reader so I can start following all your posts.


    December 3, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    • Wow, thank you! I see you have a nice little place yourself! Books and films, a very nice combination imo! Can’t get enough of either. I’ll make sure to come visit you too. Cheers!


      December 3, 2012 at 11:17 pm

  9. […] The Deep Blue Sea This was such a beautiful film about love and about life choices. Melancholic with a ray of light, just the way I love it. […]

  10. […] Här kan du läsa Jessicas egen recension av filmen i sin helhet. […]

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