Director Terence Davies attempts to translate Terence Rattigan’s 1952 play about a misbegotten love triangle into film. Shot as if it were a play, Hestor (Rachel Weisz) is a 40-year-old woman who leaves a life of ease with her husband, Sir William (Simon Russell Beale), to live with a young ex-RAF pilot, Freddie (Tom Hiddleston).
Rattigan’s play apparently showed a lot more of the reasons Hestor and Freddie act the way they act than Davies’ film does. As a result the way they act is virtually incomprehensible. This boils down to the story of three people, two of whom love someone who is not worthy of their love. The film shows Hestor desperately in love with Freddie, but all we see, except for an early scene of them naked in bed together, is Freddie treating Hestor despicably. Similarly, Sir William’s unrequited love for Hestor is almost as inexplicable, considering the cold way she constantly rejects him.
The film needs a lot more exposition of why Hestor would be so deeply in love with Freddie. To the ordinary moviegoer her desperate love makes no sense whatsoever. Instead of exposing how the relationship between Hestor and Freddie developed, Davies spends enormous amounts of time and scene after scene after scene of Hestor thinking and looking out the window and thinking some more and then thinking some more.
Whenever she tries to get Freddie to come back to her, he always responds that if he comes back to her she’ll just start talking. But we never see her talking. If Davies had given a couple of scenes of Hestor talking to Freddie it would show what Freddie was complaining about. But as Davies shot the movie, the audience doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about.
Similarly, the film starts out showing Hestor hopelessly trapped in a cheerless marriage with Sir William, who looks to be twice her age, and with Sir William equally hopelessly cowed by his domineering mother. One wonders how Hestor lasted as long as she did as Sir William’s wife.
Rattigan apparently intended his play to be an exploration of how the idea of love is inexplicable in terms of logic. The problem with the way that Davies tells the story is that the reason for the love among these three people is never shown. If one can’t understand the basis for the germination of the love that apparently developed, the rest of the story makes no sense.
About the only positive things I can say about this film are that the acting is very good and the ambience is fittingly depressing. Hestor is an inscrutable protagonist and the ending is appropriately abstruse.