FILM RATING: 5 stars
(Upgraded from 4 to 5 stars on September 29, 2011)
Let me start by saying that I absolutely love this movie poster for The Deep End (2001). It’s definitely not typical, but it’s got great color and contrast. It catches the eye. This was the best image I could find of it, but I bet the original looks even better (deeper blacks and richer tones). That blurry image of actor Tilda Swinton captures the essence of this movie beautifully. I just love character-driven dramas like this film…at least when they are done well. And this small indie film was very well made. It’s actually a bit of a “thriller” and “mystery” as well. But at its core its about the characters. Surprisingly, the film has two directors, Scott McGehee and David Siegel, which is rare. And its even rarer that the 2 are not brothers, which seems to be the typical co-director types.
This was the first film where I was introduced to Tilda Swinton, and it was one of actor Goran Visnjic’s first major movie roles, after he joined the ER cast on tv. Both actors are perfectly cast in their roles, and the chemistry between them is wonderful. The way their relationship develops from “enemies” to “friends” is well written and well acted. I don’t want to give too much about the plot away since that is where the enjoyment of this movie lies. Swinton plays Margaret, the mother of a family of three kids, with her husband Tom out at sea in the Navy. She has her husband’s elderly father at the house with the kids, but she’s the captain of this family ship while her husband is away. The eldest son, Beau, played with perfect teen angst by Jonathan Tucker, is discovering his sexuality by fooling around with a gay nightclub owner named Darby, played surprisingly well by Josh Lucas. Unfortunately, Darby accidentally dies while visiting Beau one night at his house…only to be found the next morning on the beach by Margaret. As a mother, Margaret wants to protect her son at all costs, and she assumes Beau is responsible for Darby’s death in some way, so she wants to cover it up to protect him. Darby had debts with some “bookies” who know about Darby’s affair with Beau and come to collect from Margaret, assuming she will pay to protect her son and her family from a scandal, or Beau going to jail. Goran Visnjic plays Alek, one of the two bookies, who blackmails Margaret. With her husband at sea and in the dark about Beau being gay, Margaret is left to solve this mess on her own.
The film was shot on location in Lake Tahoe and Reno, and the incredible deep blue lake is a character of its own within this drama. The photography by Giles Nuttgens is beautiful, with a natural feel that puts you right there in the movie. The soundtrack is perfectly suited to the film and helps build tension and emotion quietly. This movie grows on you as you get to know the characters and their emotions. I’ve enjoyed the subtlety of viewing this movie 3 or 4 times now and it is in my Top100 movie list. It’s not a “flashy” Hollywood film, but that’s what I like about it. It’s in the vein of another favorite character-driven thriller movie of mine: Dead Calm (1989). It’s not nearly as creepy and twisty as Dead Calm, but it has the same elements in a subtler way.
I wish these stills from the trailer were more revealing of the great photography in this movie, but alas, the trailer is not as representative of the brilliance of this movie as I think it could be. But that water droplet shot is awesome!