DRAMA THE DEEP BLUE SEA (12A) 98mins ●●●●●
The combination of Terences Davies and Rattigan is a match made in heaven. Rattigan’s centenary year has brought renewed appreciation of his gifts as a chronicler of loneliness and longing, whilst Davies is a past master at capturing the emotional devastation wrought by repressed desire. Davies strips Rattigan’s 1952 play to the bone, focusing on
the poignant fate of Lady Hester Collyer (Rachel Weisz). Hester has abandoned her respectable marriage to a High Court judge (the excellent Simon Russell Beale) to pursue her hunger for ex-RAF pilot Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston). As the relationship with Freddie has soured, she finds herself a social outcast unable to see any future leading her to the failed suicide attempt that opens the film. Florian Hoffmeister’s beautiful, soft focus cinematography offers a vision of post-War London defined by smoky pubs, foggy streets and cheap digs with cheerless gas fires: a shabby and suffocating hell for a passionate, self-destructive woman like Hester. It almost doesn’t matter that her husband is kindly and compassionate, or that lover Freddie is boorish, callow and insensitive. Neither of them is capable of giving Hester the life that she craves and that may be her tragedy.
The Deep Blue Sea is marbled with trademark Davies moments, from sentimental singsongs in corner pubs to a lengthy sequence set to the throbbing emotion of a Samuel Barber concerto. It is a film that consciously evokes the heartbreak of a Bette Davis melodrama, the clipped, brittle wit of a Noël Coward comedy and the lost England of Brief Encounter. It is unashamedly old-fashioned and undoubtedly too mannered for many modern tastes. Staunch admirers of Davies however will be thrilled by his long overdue return to film drama and this luscious proof that he has lost his understanding neither of the human heart nor the unreliable nature of love. (Allan Hunter) ■ Selected release from Fri 25 Nov.
HORROR DREAM HOUSE (15) 92min ●●●●●
FAMILY ANIMATION ARTHUR CHRISTMAS (U) 97mins ●●●●● SCI-FI/ROMANCE ANOTHER EARTH (12A) 92min ●●●●●
Fated only to be remembered as a long shelved horror-thriller during the making of which Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz found each other, Dream House sees both stars plus director Jim Sheridan and co-star Naomi Watts all at sea in a dog’s dinner of contrivance and cod psychology. After quitting his job in publishing, Will Atenton
(Craig) relocates to the suburbs with Libby (Weisz) and their two pre-teen daughters. Falling foul of the ire of hostile neighbours, the couple soon realise that their house was previously the scene of a gruesome massacre. But a mid-story twist, familiar from Identity, Secret Window and other genre staples, suggests that the main danger to the family comes not from external forces, but within . . .
Recut on studio wishes, and saddled with a spoilerific trailer, Dream House benefits from a decent performance from Craig and some sparky chemistry with Weisz, neither of which keeps David Loucka’s clunky script afloat. Lacking any genuine horror, Sheridan’s inert film offers few genuine thrills; Weisz and Craig will presumably remember it more fondly that any audience. (Eddie Harrison) ■ General release from Fri 25 Nov.
72 THE LIST 17 Nov–15 Dec 2011
In over two decades since Wallace and Gromit’s A Grand Day Out, Aardman Animation has become a byword for family entertainment, but Arthur Christmas never reaches the same lovable heights. As he selflessly answers letters prior to his father’s annual gift-delivery run, Arthur Christmas (voiced by James McAvoy) is clearly the undervalued star of Santa’s team. He seems destined to be overlooked when the central role of Santa is passed from his father (Jim Broadbent) to his older brother Steve (Hugh Laurie). But when a mechanical malfunction means that a child might go empty handed on Xmas morning, Arthur attempts a last-minute delivery with the help of his curmudgeonly grandfather (Bill Nighy).
Sarah Smith’s film is heavy on slick computer- generated glitz, but there’s little of the original Aardman spirit to be had in Arthur Christmas, which positions a contrived family feud about how best to deliver presents at its heart. With the characters boringly reflecting different degrees of niceness, Arthur Christmas feels like a TV short padded out, jolly enough for small kids, but lacking in the wit and charm that made the studio’s name. (Eddie Harrison) ■ Out now on general release.
Indie hit Another Earth belongs to a microscopic subgenre of love stories revolving around parallel universes; in this case, a planet hidden by the sun which is an exact mirror image of our own planet, right down to the people that populate it.
Running this sci-fi premise in the background of a sombre romance, actress Brit Marling and director Mike Cahill’s script opens with Rhoda (Marling) celebrating her acceptance to MIT on the night that the Earth II planet comes into view, only to drunkenly cause a road accident which kills the wife and child of John Burroughs (William Mapother). After serving four years in jail, Rhoda tries to lie low, but finds herself drawn to the man she inadvertently widowed. Their turbulent relationship seems doomed until an unexpected chance to visit Earth II offers potential salvation for both of them.
Despite its loopy Twilight Zone premise, similarly explored in Gerry Anderson’s Doppelgänger, Another Earth is less interested in space travel than the minor complexities of flawed human interaction. The final startling revelations offer an effective, if off- kilter, ending. (Eddie Harrison) ■ General release from Fri 9 Dec.