First Hit: Rachel Weisz gives an amazing performance in a good and sometimes overdone film.
This film slips time (where a film moves between future, film’s present and past) easily and effortlessly and this is true at the end as well.
However, at times the time slips are perfect and other times, I was annoyed because either I was caught up in the current segment and wanted more completion, or because I was still in the emotion of a previous segment, while we were leaving the current segment for yet another segment.
Regardless, it is Weisz (as Hester Collyer) that we watch. When the camera isn’t on her we want it to be. This is the power a good actor/actress can have when they are on top of their game. Hester is married to an older robust man who is socially prominent as a English Judge.
Sir William Collyer (played by Simon Russell Beale) loves his wife but is inadequate in many ways when you see them together. His upbringing as displayed on a visit Sir William and Hester make to his mother’s home, is tells the whole story. Mean, rude, and unkind, Sir William’s mother is overt in her dislike of Hester.
Hester meets a younger gentleman named Freddie Page (played by Tom Hiddleston) who, full of the bravery he displayed as a English pilot ace in World War II, finds himself a bit lost when he’s home. He hits on Hester at a highbrow club; she bites, and they have a torrid love affair which, for her, is based not only on physical lust, but an awakening of her whole female being – an exposing of her inner passions to feel.
For Freddie, he is carefree. He loves the sex, he loves Hester, but only at a level that leaves Hester sad – his level of caring isn’t enough for her. On the other side, Sir William won’t give her a divorce, and hopes she will come back to him as he loves her more than he can demonstrate. Hester doesn’t feel that feeling with him and at one point says; once you’ve tasted this deep unbridled love, you cannot go back or accept anything less.
Because William doesn’t let her go, she is nearly destitute but holds on to hope that Freddie will come home to roost, to live with and only want to be with her. We follow Hester through her dark depressed emotions and feelings as she navigates her conundrum; she can’t go back to Sir William and Freddie doesn’t meet their relationship at the same level – what’s a woman to do.
This film is darkly shot and it matches the correspondingly dark subject. Unfortunately for me, we there is an overtly and overly loud violin solo (towards the beginning of the film) which was distracting.
Additionally there were scenes which I was the only one in the theater who thought they thought were funny. One such scene was where Hester and Freddie were looking at a cubist drawing of Picasso’s. He made a remark that she said was childish.
He resented this and they got into a huge row in a very quiet museum. As their voices escalated he finally got mad and stormed off. She calls out after him, “where are you going” and he responds with “to the impressionists.”
I thought that was hilarious and laughed out loud. I was the only one. Then later on when the couple was discussing the argument and she asked him why he went to the impressionists, his answer was very funny.
Weisz is superb beyond belief. She probably won’t get recognized for this independent and limitedly distributed work by some awards show next year, but her acting here is brilliant. Beale is wonderful as a restrained man who loves deeply and will probably never find a way to express it because of how he was raised and his position with the government. Hiddleston is very good as the guy who is stuck a bit in the past, is still and will probably always be a boy at heart. Barbara Jefford is killer (in more ways than one) in her brief appearance as Sir William’s mother. Ann Mitchell is great as Mrs. Elton who runs the boarding house Hester and Freddie live in. Terence Davies wrote the screenplay and directed this well. I thought the dialog was amazing and very English while some of the time slipping was overused and distracting.
Overall: A dark powerful film about a woman who isn’t going to have what she wants and it is worth seeing.