Hester Collyer leads a privileged life in 1950s London as the beautiful wife of high court judge Sir William Collyer. To the shock of those around her, she walks out on her marriage to move in with young ex-RAF pilot, Freddie Page, with whom she has fallen passionately in love.
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I started watching this movie, turned it off after a few minutes, and then went back and finished it when I was in more of a mood to be depressed. It is not a film I enjoyed. For me, the problem with the film is the writing. Rachel Weisz was nominated for a Golden Globe for playing Hester Collyer, and she is woefully depressed throughout the film, but inexplicably witless. The problem for me is that you sit through the whole thing and the character never changes; there's no arc to the character. She starts depressed and she ends depressed; and everything between is also depressing. The performance that most touched me was Simon Russell Beale as the cuckold husband Sir William Collyer. He is so pathetically in love with his young wife who understandably has no passion for the geezer that it breaks your heart to see him so unappreciated by his wife and makes one wonder why they ever married. Ann Mitchell as the landlady also has a number of nice scenes. Tom Hiddleston as Freddie Page has a sexy creepiness about him, not as pronouncedly weird as Loki in "Thor," but still volatile. He is the one source of energy in an otherwise bland sea of British blokes. Samuel Barber who died in 1981 is credited with the music, which is cloying and over-the-top dramatic. During the opening sequences, we have not yet connected with Hester's character, but yet the music lushly plays as if we're watching the suicide with any significance or attachment. The choice of this score for the piece made an already difficult movie even sappier. If they'd selected some boppy jazz from the era, it would have juxtaposed the lively music with the lifeless suicide. Taking nothing away from the fine actress that Rachel Weisz is, this movie did not work for me. Taxi!
I admit that I fully expected this film to be boring. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find it not only engaging, but the first film I have seen about an adulterous affair that I think actually qualified as a love story. Yes, the film is very slow. But I never found it boring. That is largely due to the powerful performances of the three main actors: Weisz, Hiddleston and Beale. They captivate from the first to the last.
The film has an unusual structure that works well for the themes explored. It opens with Hester about to commit suicide, and recalling via flashback what transpired to get her to this point. Like true memories, they don't necessarily come in clearly, or in order, and it can be challenging for a viewer to follow at first. The movie is ostensibly about the affair between Hester and Freddie, but also subtly addresses the mystery of depression to those who have never experienced it, and cannot understand it. Hester's husband loves her; they have money and privilege, yet she is painfully unhappy because they are no more than friends. Along comes Freddie who, after surviving the Battle of Britain, is living life to the fullest with little thought for tomorrow - and she falls in love for the first time in her life. But, Freddie is unable to give her everything she needs either. It would have been easy to make Freddie the "villain" here, and I am glad the director did not. Freddie is insensitive and occasionally cruel to Hester. Yet, he never misled her on who he is, or what he could be for her. He is as trapped in his life as she in hers. One scene in the museum shows that she can be cruel to him in turn. Hester is caught between two men: one she cares for, respects and enjoys as an intellectual companion, and one who gives her the passion and joy she has been missing. With such a disastrous set-up, I was somewhat amazed that the film ended with a note of hope.
The film is beautiful to look at - visually lush and very appropriate to the time period. And the score fits so perfectly it actually tells the story for long stretches when there is little dialog. This is not an "entertaining" film in the traditional sense, and those looking for escapism will probably be disappointed. Yet, it is a very moving film about love, rebellion, and finding oneself. I enjoyed it immensely and will watch it again.
The extras are also quite good for an indie film. They include an interview with Weisz, and one with Hiddleston. But, the two featurettes were the most interesting. Terence Davies' Master Class, in which he spends about an hour addressing what looks to be an actual class of students, was superb - delving into his motivations, the actual process of how he directs, what he felt about certain scenes, and the actors. This would be of particular interest to film students, even if the film is not their cup of tea. The DVD also includes director commentary of the film, but I personally don't like those. Overall, 4.5 stars, and it has encouraged me to look for other films by this director.
This movie was beautiful. After seeing that it didn't have many stars, I wondered if it would be any good. My experience with Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston told me to watch it anyway. They are incredible actors and I hoped that, even if it wasn't a very good story, their acting would still make it worth while. I came to find that, not only did they give breathtaking performances, the story was beautiful as well. I can only assume that people didn't like this film because it's not a happy one. There is no resolution, no happily ever after. Well, I hate to break it to them but, such is life. Not all love is returned, nor do all people wind up with the person they want to be with. That doesn't make the story any less compelling. For me, it just makes it honest. There are plenty of movies where everything ends perfectly, I would argue that the majority do. If you can't handle a little heartbreak, then don't watch this movie. But if you can find the beauty in the dark side of love, you might be able to appreciate this movie for the gem that it is.
It's hard to say "I like it" because it's very sad. But it is well-produced, a provoking story, and well acted, thus 4 stars. A young-ish women makes bad choices with men. It's almost like 'The Scarlet Letter' but the pain of the Hester is turned inward. Women do make foolish mistakes, so do men. Hester seems to have not made much life of her own; depending upon others to give her life and make her happy; could have been her religious upbringing. This is a psychological drama with dialogue & emotions. This is the chaos of a tortured soul; a woman's story dealing with the stunted growth of one unsettled man and a mismatch with a colder, older man who never separated from his mummy. If you are looking for action and fast-paced drama, this is not your movie, This is about one-year of a turning point in a woman's life, who has to make her own way, post-war. She's not willing to settle for reproductions of her mommy & daddy in her love life.At least she was smart enough to know that a baby would not improve her lot. I would love to see Hester in a year, to see how she is doing.
5.0 out of 5 starsVisually Stunning in Sepia & Wonderful Acting all Round
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 7, 2016
‘Distant Voices’ & ‘The Long Day Closes,’ were such beautifully shot and poignant films, this one is no exception. Davies sticks to the wonderful colour palettes of the aforementioned films, which are the trademark of his films. It makes them so distinctive and visually special. The wardrobe and décor are immensely impressive from that period - you can almost smell the wallpaper and feel the need to put he fire on. Whilst his previous classics concern the working classes, here we have a more up market clientele to view. It doesn’t stop Davies from revisiting his working class roots - in the pubs that are full of song, woodbines and pints of mild. Then it’s down to the underground communities, away from the doodle bugs. These are rather surprising reoccurring themes even though they are of course immensely atmospheric. The acting here is outstanding. Weisz was nominated for a Golden Globe, but equally as good were: Simon Russell Beale (now doing so well in ‘The Father,’ in the West End) and Tom Hiddlestone as the suave RAF bounder. Even Anne Mitchell was brilliant as the archetypal ‘Blighty’ landlady. This is a tale of emotional pain from all sides and most definitely an art form of writing and acting. I thought it a compelling and visually beautiful to watch.
I hope this film will be first of a revival of Terence Rattigan's work. Beautiful plays and films; a wonderful insight into the drama of peoples everyday lives Rattigan wrote words which actors love to speak. Here the story is set in its original time, just after the war. It had to be set in that era as the conventions of the time really dictate the story. Three incredible actors of today - Simon Russell Beale, Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston play their parts absolutely perfectly. It is riveting, intense, totally exhausting to watch. An absolutely perfect production in every way. And, may I ask if we could have the chance of seeing the original film starring the exceptionally talented Vivien Leigh? I know it still exists - just print some copies please.
An achingly sad film of love and lost love, set against the backdrop of post- war London.A stunningly emotional performance by Rachel Weisz ..The haunting music of Samuel Barber is so effective, it almost becomes a member of the cast----.Sensitively adapted and directed by Terence Davies, this is certainly the finest screen interpretation of any of Rattigan's plays.
This is like being at the theatre, the staging, sound and scenes are perfectly pitched with a seem of tension running through every scene. The character played by Rachel Weisz never seems to fit whether it is with her husband, her mother in law, at Freddie's flat or in the pub. She is never relaxed and is desperate to find her place in society where she can be comfortable but sadly looks to others to solve this problem instead of looking to herself. She makes disastrous choices but it would seem that by the end, she has come to realise that she needs to love herself first and foremost.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 30, 2013
Terence Rattigan has been in and out of fashion for decades, but this beautifully crafted production shows why he is one of the 20th century's greatest playwrights. This is not an "action" movie, but if you like French films this will probably appeal to you. Full marks to director Terence Davies for having the confidence to let Rattigan's words speak for themselves, faithfully reproducing the dreary brown decoration of post-war English houses, and above all for not using background music (apart from extracts from Hilary Hahn's exquisite recording of Barber's violin concerto).
Excellent performances from all three principals, with a special note of appreciation for Simon Russell Beale who is one of the outstanding stage actors of his generation and has the skill to adapt his work to the requirements of the camera.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 13, 2014
Oh dear! So long-drawn out that I almost gave up. Very little chemistry between Tom Huddleston and Rachel Weisz, murkily filmed and far too slow. I am old enough to remember the film with Vivien Leigh and Kenneth More, which was so much better. Perhaps it was more obviously adapted from the stage play, but Leigh's feverish intensity and More's puzzlement and ultimately his fear of all that this involved was much more convincing and much more moving.
Good film can be slow at some points but Rachel Weiz's performance is brilliant as a wife struggling to choose between lust and security. Tom Hiddleston is also very good as a broken romantic lead, very different to his role as Loki in 'Thor' and 'The Avengers'. It's a good film to watch :)
5.0 out of 5 starsA brave performance from all three actors.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 24, 2014
A carefully nuanced production which is as relevant today as then.An exploration of love and the need to have passion In life.The music sets the tone and Rachel Weisz quietly reveals the pain if loving so much. Simon Russell Beale is impeccable and measured as the husband who lacks passion himself.There must be many men who are like Freddy,had an adventure and was a hero,now he is lost.Tom Hiddleston shows the playfulness as well as fear to commit to anyone.All three actors make the film a real treat to watch many times.