The Deep End
Details: (MA15+), 101 mins, United States, English
Synopsis: Margaret (Tilda Swinton) and her teenage son's (Jonathan Tucker) lives are thrown into turmoil when the body of her son's lover is discovered washed up near their remote, lakeside home. Margaret hides the body but soon finds herself fighting for her family's survival when she becomes the victim of a blackmail attempt from a stranger.
Woman-in-jeopardy thriller with a double twist.
A formulaic B-grade thriller about a woman driven to desperate lengths to protect her son, The Deep End rises a notch or two above the norm thanks to a compelling performance by the always-watchable Tilda Swinton.
The screenplay by writer-directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel, based on the 1947 novel The Blank Wall by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding, offers two inventive twists but is undermined by a massively unlikely contrivance and glaring leaps of logic. (The novel previously inspired Max Ophuls' 1949 movie The Reckless Moment).
Swinton plays Margaret Hall, a Lake Tahoe housewife who raises her three kids almost single-handedly because her husband, a captain in the Navy, is rarely at home.
To her chagrin, her 17-year-old son Beau (Jonathan Tucker) is having a sexual relationship with Darby (Josh Lucas), the gay, sleazy owner of a Reno night club (Beau’s sexual orientation is twist No. 1). She warns Darby to stay away from her son but he turns up at their lakeside home late one night and scuffles with Beau.
The next morning Margaret finds Darby’s dead body on the shoreline. You and I would call the cops but she assumes Beau killed him, wraps the body, lugs it into her boat and tosses it overboard in a remote part of the lake.
Naturally she asks Beau what happened, he doesn’t give a straight answer and she doesn’t press him: a barely plausible scenario in the real world. Then, a handsome stranger named Alek Spera (former E.R. regular Goran Visnjic) comes knocking at her door, shows her a videotape of her son making out with Darby, and demands $50,000 by the next day or he’ll send the tape to the police.
As Margaret frantically tries to raise the money, which proves difficult as her absent husband can’t co-sign bank withdrawal forms, the scriptwriters contrive to give Alek the chance to show he isn’t an entirely black-hearted blackmailer as he performs a noble, selfless act (twist No. 2).
The suspense builds nicely until the climax which veers into pure melodrama but the bi-play between Swanton and Visnjic is effective. Swinton is convincing as a strong-willed, fiercely-protective mother. There’s almost no back story to explain Alek’s motivation but Visnjic does enough to suggest he’s a man with a conscience.
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