The Deep End Review

The Deep End is a loose remake of Max Ophüls's 1949 thriller The Reckless Moment, and is another example of an excellent film overlooked by a majority of the mainstream audience. The film's title vaguely pre-empts the viewer as to what type of story they are about to witness, a story in which the protagonists are in over their hard, struggling to breathe for air amidst the encapsulating water. The film uses water as a secondary visual device to constantly remind the audience that the situations presented on screen are far from the norm.

In terms of plot, The Deep End has an air of In The Bedroom about it. Tilda Swinton plays Margaret Hall, a mother of three whose oldest son Beau (Jonathan Tucker) has found himself mixed up in extravagant and dangerous company in the form of homosexual older-man Darby Reece (Josh Lucas). After an argument one night at Beau's house, Darby and Beau fight, and Margaret finds Darby dead the next morning. Doing everything she can to hide the body, Margaret becomes dragged into a blackmail case when a mysterious man named Alek (Goran Visnjic) arrives on the scene, and claims to know more about Darby and Beau's relationship than Margaret.

Most of the plot-lines explored in The Deep End are routine fare for the thriller genre. However, what makes the film so interesting is how the film's two directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel manage to push the film to its plot limitations and still carefully stay the right side of implausibility. The film acts like one mother's nightmare played out in full, vivid daylight, with each predicament proving more problematic, as if deeper waters are being ventured and the danger level is increased. Indeed, one of the beauties of The Deep End is the notion that deeper within the core of the characters and situations lies too many problems for the film to deal with, suggesting that the conclusion of the film is not an end but rather a temporary halt.

The strangest element about the film is how it could act almost as a bizarre love story between Margaret and Alek. Alek blackmails Margaret, but instantly we the audience are giving clues to Alek's character, as if the sensitivity of his soul manages to poke its head amidst the abundance of heartless and clinical persona he possesses. Margaret is also a far more ambiguous character than the superficial plot would suggest. She rarely screams or explodes into a tearful rage, as if her inner decorum is the only remaining wall between sanity and mental breakdown. Her character is so strongly acted by Tilda Swinton in such a subtle manner that it's hard to picture anyone else in the role, and Swinton is clearly better than Sissy Spacek in In The Bedroom even if the latter received an Oscar nomination. Swinton has a British accent, but you'd be forgiven for thinking she is American based on her performance as Margaret. Goran Visnjic is just as strong as Alek, an ultimately good-natured character who has been blatantly tainted by corruption and evil. His face bears the deep, inner scars of his past, and yet at times he almost acts as a substitute father/husband figure for Margaret, considering her proper husband is away at sea and oblivious to any of the lurking problems lying at the heart of his family. At times, Raymond J. Barry's villain-of-the-piece Nagel is a stock bully, but even his relationship with Alek suggests a layer of hidden undertones that the film has no desire to tread.

Co-directors McGehee and Siegel understand their characters, and understand that it is these characters and not the plot that drives the film's relentless narrative. At just over ninety minutes in length, The Deep End is mostly devoid of any type of padded scenes, and each sequence is handled with an assured directorial confidence by the two men who brought to the screen the neo-noir thriller Suture in the early-nineties. If anything, The Deep End suggests a promising future for the two men.

The film exploits the concept of sound to drive the narrative, from kettles whining to speed-zoom of cars zipping past the window, the film's soundtrack is a disruptive and antagonist anthology of audio events that refuses the audience the luxury of relaxing with the film. Even the score by Peter Nashel seems out of synchronisation with typical convention, as if refusing to choreograph the screen actions for the audience. Visually, the film possesses a crisp and rich beauty that seems to contradict the painful on-screen proceedings. The cinematography by Giles Nuttgens gives the film a distinct blue colour tone, as if corroborating the film's main notion of being immersed in 'deep water'.

Whilst certainly not to everyone's tastes, The Deep End is a winning familial drama that strikes a lingering chord of disharmony and intensity in the mind, and is a quality drama worthy of anyone's attentions.

Presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen, the transfer for The Deep End is splendid, and possesses a very sharp level of detail and beautiful primary colour tones that fully complement the viewing experience. Edge enhancement and grain are kept to a minimum, and this just beats the Region 1 version for excellence.

The sound mix is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and is quite aggressive for a mainly dialogue-driven film, with rears being used for ambient sound effects, and decent spatial channelling given to the many background noises.

Menu: A silent and static menu given a bright, blurry stylistic effect.

Packaging: Presented in a transparent amaray with chapter listings printed on the reverse of the inlay.

Sadly, no extras have been provided for the Region 2 release of The Deep End, and this is more unfortunate considering the Region 1 version had some good extras, such as a commentary and some featurettes.


The Deep End is an excellent and thoroughly engaging familial drama/thriller that deserves a bigger audience than it received, and the Region 2 deserves a better DVD release than it has received, even if the picture and sound quality of the feature is excellent. Still, if found at a reasonable, there is no reason why this won't prove to be a good purchase for some.

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