The Deep End Review

Tiffany Bradford has reviewed the Region 1 release of The Deep End. An exciting domestic thriller from the writing/directing team of Suture, Fox has released another impressive DVD with loads of extras.

Margaret loves her children more than anything. Like all good mothers, she wants to see them grow up to be happy, healthy and successful adults – but unlike most good mothers, Margaret is keeping a secret, a very bad secret, and she will do just about anything to protect it.

Margaret Hall (Tilda Swinton) is a self-sacrificing devoted mother of three married to a Naval Officer – she spends a great deal of time raising her children alone in a beautiful secluded home in Lake Tahoe California with her father-in-law Jack (Peter Donat). Content with her day-to-day routine of carpooling, shuttling the kids to sporting events, music and ballerina lessons, she is unexpectedly blindsided when her oldest child, seventeen-year old Beau (Jonathan Tucker), is involved in a drunk driving accident along with his thirty-year old homosexual friend Darby (Josh Lucas). Suspecting the worst, Margaret travels to a gay club called The Deep End to confront Darby. He admits to a sexual relationship with her son and she offers the financially-strapped man five thousand dollars to stay away from Beau – later that evening, Darby shows up at the Hall home and secretly meets with Beau. They exchange words which ultimately lead to blows and Beau storms off leaving a badly bruised and beaten, but very much alive Darby alone. The next morning, Margaret discovers the body of Darby underneath the bridge to their boathouse – he has been impaled with an anchor to his chest.

Convinced her son is responsible for Darby’s death, Margaret must now make a horrific decision. She opts to hide the body underwater in an out-of-the way cove in the lake. Just as she is coming to grips with what she has done, she is paid a visit by a mysterious man named Alek (Goran Visnjic) who has a videotape of her son and Darby engaged in sexual acts – he threatens to go to the police if she doesn’t pay him fifty thousand dollars in twenty-four hours. Things are not what they appear and Margaret faces all of this alone. There are subtle plot twists and turns and Margaret’s metamorphosis from quiet passive mom to a woman who will stop at nothing to protect her family is understated and realistic.

Tilda Swinton is a wonder to behold. The forty-two year old British actress gives a performance worthy of an Academy Award, yet she was sadly overlooked at Oscar time. Pale, thin and devoid of make-up she nonetheless shines as a loving mother who will protect her children at all cost. Goran Visnjic (E.R.’s better-looking replacement for George Clooney) does an admirable job as Alek, a reluctant blackmailer who gradually develops a begrudging respect for his courageous victim. Darby is played with sleazy charm by Josh Lucas (Session 9) and Jonathan Tucker manages to look both innocent and knowing as the recently outed son and betrayed lover.

The writing/directing team of Scott McGehee and David Siegel (Suture) have created a magnificent domestic thriller loosely based on the 1947 serialised novel The Blank Wall (which first appeared in Ladies Home Journal) by author Elizabeth Sanxay Holding. This is actually the second film based on the novel – the first being 1949’s The Reckless Moment which starred James Mason and Joan Bennett. The script is pretty faithful to the novel despite one major plot change: in The Reckless Moment, a daughter and the death of her older male lover are the center of the film – in The Deep End the film focuses on a gay son and the death of his older male lover. The cinematography is breathtaking. Lake Tahoe was an inspired choice and cinematographer Giles Nuttgens has made great use of the natural beauty of the Northern California landscapes.


The film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The transfer is taken from a near pristine print. The colours are absolutely gorgeous with no fading – the natural-looking flesh-tones and the blues and greens of the Lake Tahoe scenery are striking. There is slight edge enhancement, but no fading or pixelation. The black level is excellent and only the tiniest bit of grain is evident in some of the darker nighttime scenes.


The Dolby Digital 5.1 Soundtrack is excellent, and every detail of the boat moving across the water, the gusty winds and Lake Tahoe’s ambient sounds can be heard crisp and hiss-free as the rear speakers are utilised quite nicely. Optional English Dolby Digital 2.0 and French Dolby Digital 2.0 are offered.



The commentary is done by the writing/directing team of McGehee and Siegel. They prove to be a very interesting entertaining duo, as they share information about the history of the film, budgetary considerations, scouting locations, scene-specific shooting techniques, making of anecdotes and the obligatory comments on cast and crew.

Chapter Stops and Menus

There are 24 static chapter stops and four menus. The chapter stops are stills from the film. The main menu is an animated clip from the film accompanied by suitably eerie music.

“The Anatomy of a Scene”

Sundance Channel has put together a wonderful 24-minute long making of. It consists of detailed interviews with writers/directors McGehee and Siegel, stars Tilda Swinton and Goran Visnjic, cinematographer Giles Nuttgens, production designer Kelly McGehee, and Peter Nashel who did the film’s brilliant score. It is presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen and Dolby Digital 2.0


A two and a half minute featurette is included, which is presented in full frame Dolby Digital 2.0, and features brief interviews with star Tilda Swinton and writers/directors McGehee and Siegel.

Theatrical Trailer

A well-made anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen Dolby Digital 2.0 trailer is included.

TV Spot “Review”

A short TV Spot in non-anamorphic 1.66:1 widescreen Dolby Digital 2.0 features the voiceover quoting recent media reviews of the film.

Still Gallery

Seventy stills from the film and behind-the-scenes, are presented in black and white and colour.

Fox Flix

The following four trailers from Fox are included:

1) Sexy Beast
Dolby Digital 2.0 full frame trailer.

2) Boys Don’t Cry
Dolby Digital 2.0 anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen trailer.

3) Stealing Beauty
Dolby Digital 2.0 anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen trailer.

4) Quills
Dolby Digital 2.0 anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen trailer.


Tilda Swinton’s exquisite performance gives the film substance, energy, compassion and strength. Peter Nashel’s dark and brilliant score and the absolutely beautiful cinematography by Giles Nuttgens underscore the dark journey of a woman who faced with overwhelming odds, rises to the challenge to protect those she loves. Fox has once again assembled an impressive DVD and the Sundance Channel’s making of is an excellent extra in its own right. Never underestimate a mother’s love, and don’t underestimate The Deep End – it is a well-acted, gorgeously filmed domestic thriller that will keep you guessing right up until its unnerving end.

Tiffany Bradford

Updated: May 18, 2002

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