This film may appeal to those who are familiar with the era and would appreciate the imagery, soundtrack, and emotional layers depicted in the film. Others will find it quite dull and depressing. Rachel Weisz plays Lady Hester whose soul can be felt screaming under her forced composure. Married to Sir William Collyer, a British judge played by Simon Russell Beale, she appears to find her life, based on etiquette and social acceptance unbearable. Deciding that it is better to live a life of passion, than one of controlled feelings and monotony that weigh her soul daily, she proceeds to have an affair with an ex-Royal Air Force pilot by the name of Freddie played by Tom Hiddleston. The contrast between her composed husband and Freddie who appears infantile, irresponsible and completely selfish is extreme. There is no explanation for why she is childless, although William asks her whether it would have made any difference to her lack of happiness had they had a child.
There are many unanswered questions, the most intriguing one being; Which is more unbearable – to live a life feeling nothing, or to experience the exhilaration of love, then suffer the depths of pain caused by the lover who steals your dignity? Ironically, Hester’s landlady who is caring for her elderly father tells her that real love is changing the soiled underwear of someone who is helpless and still allowing them to keep their dignity. Love is about putting the other person’s feelings above your own; something that Hester’s lover refuses to do. William, deeply hurt by the affair states that he never wants to see Hester again. However ten months later when he hears about Hester’s attempted suicide, immediately comes to her aid showing her that his deep love for her remains. Having felt nothing for most of her life, Hester’s passionate affair becomes so overwhelming that she spends the majority of her time constantly trying to balance her feelings. When she feels nothing it scares her so she acts in irrational ways, running into the subway just as a speeding train blasts past her. Then when she feels too much and cannot cope with the pain, she attempts suicide. She allows herself to be publicly humiliated by her lover, because it feels better than being ignored.
For the viewer, her roller coaster ride plays in slow motion and in some parts becomes mind-numbingly slow. The flashbacks and imagery are confusing; an example being when Hester runs into the subway. The tension is broken by strange dream-like imagery of a crowd of people laying about the subway, which makes little sense. The film may have been set in the 1950s but there’s no excuse for the simulation of cataracts that made the entire film annoyingly blurry. To add to the dullness, it was set in wintery doom and gloom. The streets still in disarray from the Blitz are as lifeless as the characters. Terence Davies lacks creativity when the best he can do is devoid the film of colour, including having everyone dressed in the same drab garb except for Hester who gets to wear the scarlet coat. Jacq’s rating: 2 out of 5