The Deep End (2001)
In the vast wasteland the summer has become of mediocrity and sub-mediocrity, go to your local art house. There you may very well see The Deep End, a dramatic thriller that burrows itself into the audience’s mind. The film is an absolute breath of fresh air in the stagnant summer finally winding down.
Tilda Swinton plays a normal mother living on the banks of Lake Tahoe. Her days usually consist of trying to ship her kids to school on time and handle the duties of the home in the long stretches her Naval officer husband is gone. She’s juggling responsibilities and chores when her first strike of maternal protection occurs. Her 17 year-old son is, to her great surprise, in a relationship with a sleazy man in his 30s. She discovered this when her son got into a serious car accident while this paramour was traveling with. The scene of the crash is replayed in flashbacks for Swinton as a motivational jump-start for her protection and love.
She tells the man she doesn’t want him seeing her son any longer, but of course he refuses to desist… unless the price is right. This revelation sends her son to a late night confrontation at home that ends in the accidental death of the sleaze. Mom sees her son rush back into the house in the middle of the night and decides to go out and investigate. On her stroll to her horror she finds the dead body of her son’s lover. From that moment on something in her clicks and she clumsily tries to hide the body and any evidence that could incriminate her own brood.
Just when she believes her headaches are over a dark and handsome stranger (Goran Visnjic) visits her one day. He has within his possession a videotape of her son having explicit sex with the dead lover. He threatens to turn the tape into the police and thus destroy the peace Swinton has created. The video can be hers, but she must pay him and his unseen partner the sum of $50,000.
Tilda Swinton is best known as the gender-swapping title figure in Orlando based upon Virginia’s Woolfe’s story. The Scottish actress has a wonderfully pallid face and soulful eyes that express every moment the determination and fear she wrestles with. Swinton gives a remarkable performance of pure emotion. She is a mother determined to protect her son and family at every cost, no matter the means. She is constantly in over her head but refuses to relent. Swinton’s portrayal is a woman running on maternal instinct and she herself is the very gravity that makes The Deep End as great as it is.
Goran Visnjic currently plays a Croatian doc on E.R. but has a provocative presence in this flick. He’s got the smoldering good looks and his character opens up more and more as the tale progresses to strip away pretensions layer by layer.
The Deep End is directed, written, and produced by David Siegel and Scott McGehee, with only one other film to their credit all the way back in 1993. They inject their story with great moments of character and suspense but also have a terrific visual eye to create mood. The cinematography is lush and hypnotic with certain moments of exquisite beauty. Even the music adds to the feeling of the film unlike so many other accompanying scores. Every component of ‘The Deep End’ is just clicking.
The Deep End is a luminously tight thriller with remarkable performances. They story has a few implausible moments but outweighs them with heapings of great dramatic depth. Swinton better be one of the first choice on everyone’s lips when the name of Oscar rolls about, because I doubt I’ll see a performance more elegant and wonderful as hers this year.
Nate’s Grade: A