I stayed away from the theaters over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend opting instead to discover two small movies starring Rachel Weisz. In The Deep Blue Sea and The Whistleblower, Weisz delivered wonderful performances in two divergent roles.
Rachel Weisz is one of those actresses that possess great talent but fails to register the recognition that her contemporaries receive. She morphs easily between fragile and tough; consistently delivering a powerful performance in every role
The Deep Blue Sea was directed by Terence Davies and was adapted from a 1952 play of the same name written by Terence Rattigan. Weisz portrays Hester Collyer, the wife of Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale), a judge who is much older than she is. Hester embarks on a passionate affair with a former Royal Air Force pilot, Freddie Page played by the very charming Tom Hiddleston. Hester eventually leaves her husband for Freddie.
The movie begins with Hester alone in a dingy flat and abandoned by Freddie on her birthday. She decides to kill herself by taking pills and turning on the gas from the furnace. Hester leaves a letter for Freddie on the mantle and lies down on the floor to die. The movie flashes back to when Hester first meets Freddie and gives glimpses of their affair from the beginning.
Hester doesn’t succeed in her suicide attempt and is saved by a neighbor and her landlady, Mrs. Elton (Ann Mitchell). Mrs. Elton calls Hester’s estranged husband William after she finds Hester passed out on the floor in the flat from the failed suicide attempt. William comes to see Hester and it is evident he still cares about her deeply. William sees the way Hester lives and ask her if Freddie is worth it. William confesses he had hoped Hester was suffering in some way but now that he actually sees the state she’s in, William feels sympathetic toward her. There are flashbacks to their marriage where we see the couple having dinner with William’s mother who doesn’t care for Hester. William is shown to be a bit spineless when it comes to both women in his life. Hester leaves the dinner table and goes to call Freddie. She promises to meet him as William walks in on the conversation but doesn’t confront her.
Hester is reminiscent of Anna Karenina in the way she tries to escape the drudgery of a passionless marriage for the excitement of a younger man’s arm. Like Anna, Hester fails to see the devotion her husband has towards her and runs to a man who does not hold her in the same regard. Hester’s young lover turns out to be disappointment. Freddie like Anna’a Vronsky is self-absorbed and insensitive. Thinking she has finally found true love, Hester like Anna can’t see herself existing in world where that love does not exist. She tells William as much and crushes any hope for a reconciliation.
Tom Hiddleston and Simon Russelle Beale, the two men in Hester’s life give great performance as well. Beale lends a tragic sadness playing a man who deeply loves a woman who no longer feels the same way towards him. William is closed off emotionally that it is hard for him to express his feelings but he desperately wants to win his wife back. Tom Hiddleston is naturally charming with a heart-swooning smile that it is easy to see why Hester would fall for his Freddie. All the charm is a facade and Freddie loves the chase but doesn’t want to put in the work required to sustain a relationship. He is abysmal at keeping a mistress; barely supporting her financially. When Freddie finds out about Hester’s suicide attempt, he makes it all about him and he is angry at Hester for doing that to him. Even at this moment, Hester doesn’t realize how worthless and undeserving Freddie is of her efforts.
Freddie tells Hester he must leave because he has a job prospect in Brazil and even though he loves her, he can’t see any future for the two of them. They are no good for each other. Freddie has his out. Hester make one desperate plea to work things out but it is no use. The last shot is of Hester looking forlornly out the window and it is uncertain if she will attempt to end her life again now that the love she feared she would lose was now gone.
The Deep Blue Sea is one of those movies that was overlooked when it was released but is worth the watch. The film is quiet and thought-provoking. Like Hester, the film will leave you feeling frustrated. That to me, is a sign of a good movie because any film that elicits any strong emotion is a good one.
The Whistleblower didn’t get much press when it was initially released. It is one of those movies that edified and leaves you wanting to rip the heads off the villains in the movie. The Whistleblower was released in 2010 and was directed by Larysa Kondracki.
The film is based on a true story and follows Weisz as Kathryn Bolkovac, a former Nebraska police officer. Bolkovac loses custody of her daughter and her second husband decides to move out-of-state with their daughter. After she is unable to secure a job transfer so she can be closer to her daughter, Kathryn is forced to take high-paying job for a U.K. company called Democra Security. The company provides and trains the U.N. International Police force for a post-war Bosnia.
Kathryn is part of he peacekeeping force in Bosnia. After helping to investigate and bring to trial a domestic abuse case of a Muslim woman, Kathryn is made head of the department of gender affairs. One night, her assistance is needed at a raid of a local bar and it is there that she stumbles on sex trafficking ring of young girls from the Ukraine and Eastern European countries. Kathryn’s investigation of the case leads her to uncover wide-scale corruption involving local police officers and U.N. International Police force members from the U.S. Kathryn tries to bring the crimes to the attention of U.N. who in turn decide to cover up the case in order to protect lucrative defense and security contracts.
Kathryn is up against tremendous obstacles including a misogynistic predominately male work place that have little regard women. This is witnessed by the way they purchase and trade young girls as slaves and take demeaning pictures of their exploits. Her employer Democra is also not interested in making public the reprehensible behavior of their employees who have diplomatic immunity.
Kathryn finds allies in Madeleine Rees (Vanessa Redgrave) and Peter Ward (David Strathairn) who champion Kathryn but have little authority to give justice to the horrendous crimes Kathryn uncovers.
Kathryn becomes invested in the case even more when she gets close to one of the victims Raya, a Ukrainian girl who was sold to the human-traffickers by her uncle. Being apart from her own daughter, Kathryn identifies with Raya and the other victims. She sees her daughter in these girls and it makes her more determined to help them. Kathryn convinces some of the girls to come forward and testify against her captors. The girls eventually agree but right before the trial, the girls are captured and tortured by the sex-traffickers until no one is willing to come forward again. The final defeat for Kathryn is finding Raya’s body discarded in the woods.
I felt the frustration and anger Weisz’s Kathryn was going through. Her face was so expressive you could just read the emotions flashing across it. She is great at showing the power one woman on a mission processes when fighting insurmountable odds.
Kathryn is eventually fired by Democra. She is able to smuggle out her files from the investigation and hands the information over to the BBC. The result of her exposing the corruption and crimes only led to some of the ”peacekeepers” being sent home but none were prosecuted. The peacekeepers’ diplomatic immunity and the confusing bureaucracy resulted in muddled lines of jurisdiction. The victims of the crime never saw justice and the large contractors were still able to do business with the international community.
Rachel Weisz is riveting in both The Deep Blue Sea and The Whistleblower. After watching her in these films, it isn’t surprising to hear the Oscar buzz surrounding her performance in The Deep Blue Sea.