The Deep End Reviews
But alas a mother cannot always stop what her child thinks is true love, and the very night of her attempting to tell him off is Darby meeting Beau at the family's boathouse for sex. Things come to blows, though, when Darby suggests Beau try to discreetly get money from under the noses of his parents. But like most arguments that get a little too passionate in the movies, Darby happens to take one wrong step on the property's dock and falls smack dab onto the jagged point of an anchor lurking beneath the surface of the waves. Killed instantaneously, Beau fails to mention the accident and leaves the body in its same position for the rest of the night.
The next morning, when she stumbles upon Darby's remains on the shore, Margaret assumes that Beau must have murdered his immortal suitor in some sort of twisted self-defense. Both not wanting the potential laden kid to spend the rest of his life in jail and not wanting anyone to find out about his homosexuality, she takes matters into her own hands, tying the body to the anchor and dropping it off in the middle of Lake Tahoe. The conflict is complicated, however, by the sudden appearance of a man (Goran Vinji?) who claims to have a Darby and Beau starring sex tape. To ward him off, $50,000 must be paid within a few days -- or else.
And a deceptively simple setup that is. But "The Deep End" is a neo noir just effectively sincere enough to rise sympathy out of us when things could have merely taken on the shape of convincingly structured homage. An adaptation of Elizabeth Sanxay Holding's "The Blank Wall" (1947), a novel additionally brought to the silver screen by Max Ophüls's praised "The Reckless Moment" (1949), it's an engaging cinematic examination of a mother's love and how far that said love can go before ever present danger starts to make its way onto the scene.
"The Deep End" has the makings of a hackneyed woman in trouble feature, but Swinton and Vinji?, along with thoughtful writing/directing team Scott McGehee and David Siegel, inspire compassion that makes the film's thrills come second to its many shades of desperation. Swinton is wonderful as an ordinary woman forced to be extraordinary to preserve what's left of her son's virtue, even if that forced extraordinariness makes her skirt the edges of morality one too many times. Vinji? subverts two-dimensional villainy and ultimately touches as an essentially good man in a bad business that begins to empathize with the forlorn situation of his would-be victims. And with McGehee and Siegel's commiserative screenplay and appropriately slithering direction supporting their actors, never does the film bear tone undermining false notes -- it's emotional without saccharinity, its tension as intact as our feeling for characters trapped in a seemingly ineludible labyrinth of intrigue.
Everything about "The Deep End" is just right, except for an ending that unavoidably succumbs to the melodramatic pretense so much of the movie impressively avoids. But a conclusion of deep fried triteness cannot upstage all that stands behind it -- the film is a terse balancing act tightly made urgent by its smartly placed injections of pathos.
What catapults Deep End over typical noir films is, without question, Tilda Swinton. Swinton's acting range has long been lauded, and here she completely inhibits her character, conveying a powerful sense of desperation, while also employing a smart cunning. She is surrounded by other strong performances, the most impressive of which being Goran Visnijic, with whom she held a great deal of chemistry.
The script for Deep End is also smart. It gives us scenarios that are grounded in reality, characters with motivations and actions that we can identify with. We understand why they act the way they act, and are therefore invested in both the decisions they make, and the situations they find themselves in. This smart script is complemented by tight direction, which creates a magnificent atmospheric yet intense tone, in the vein of other great noir films, such as In the Bedroom.
While offering us the intrigue of a good noir film, Deep End never forgets to keep the emphasis on the characters and their plights. This emphasis on character dynamics serves the film well, and makes it an overall strong noir piece.