Set in 1950s England, the film centres around Hester Collyer’s (Weisz) dilemma. Her relationship with her judge husband, William Collyer (Beale), is loving, stable and affords her a high level of material comfort. But while their life is perfect on paper, it lacks passion – which she finds in the arms of Freddie Page (Hiddleston); a considerably less wealthy RAF pilot who considers the war to be the highlight of his life. Refreshingly enough, the film doesn’t take the conventional ‘who will she choose?‘ approach. Hester picks Freddie and never wavers in her choice. Instead, she focuses on the destructive effects of obsessive love; on defining yourself in relation to another person and on unrequited love.

The film is intense and not just because it stars Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston, who probably have the most potent eyes in the business, though they are a large part of it. The film focuses almost singularly on emotions to the point where Hester barely considers the rational and materialistic sides of the equation. Her single-minded focus on following her heart creates the kind of slow burning, invigorating drama that keeps you riveted despite the small, intimate nature of the story being told.

The film would have never worked without its two phenomenal leads. To Weisz’s credit, Hester never seems flighty, insane or immature. She comes across more as a woman reacting to the stifling constraints placed upon her by her social rank; who decides to take matters into her own hands and it’s very understandable why she’d become infatuated with Freddie. There’s just something about Hiddleston that makes him seem like an old Hollywood star, born in the wrong era. He has the charm, the smirk and he wears suits incredibly well; definitely the kind of man who could sweep a well-to-do lady off her feet despite the financial gap. As a duo, their chemistry is off the charts and while the film isn’t a romance in the straightforward, happily-ever-after way, it’s incredibly passionate and occasionally heartbreaking.

Adding to the film’s intensity is its sheer visual beauty. The costumes and set design are simply stunning and the scenes are bathed in a golden glow that really romanticizes them. The cinematography takes full advantage of the beauty on display making it a gorgeous film to watch. And on top of that, the camera work is frequently breathtaking. There are plenty of long shots that really drag you into the scene and make you feel as though you’re drowning alongside Hester.

The film was originally a play and yet it’s perfectly suited to cinema where the nuances in the actors’ performances can be better appreciated. The story isn’t anything new but the heights it reaches in regards to toying with the viewer’s feelings before completely shattering them, are rather exceptional and due, in no small part, to the gorgeously old-fashioned score. It’s an impossibly romantic film, equally tragic and just devastatingly beautiful.