Terence Rattigan’s writing relies on actors who will keep deep, painful emotions under the surface and be truly possessed by them. Rachel Weisz fully inhabits the pain of Hester Collyer and it is unbearably moving. Thoughts and emotions sit half emerged, half subdued in her face and eyes, continuously leading us or beguiling us. Weisz is unnervingly present, and as the disappointments accumulate in Hester’s life we feel them with her.
It would be easy to be impatient with Hester’s dilemma: a privileged woman who leaves her loving husband for a charming but unreliable and petulant younger man.
Physical attraction has woken something in her, but it breaks her too. We see Hester’s weaknesses and vulnerability, but Weisz shows us a devastating stoicism as well. She confronts the hurt inflicted on her husband and herself without self-pity or melodrama. There is an emotional nakedness here, which is like watching the permanent bruising of a human soul. It is a luminous and unforgettable performance, beautiful in its detail and heartbreaking in its lightness of touch.