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Today's Date is:

The Deep End


Reviewed by: David Litton
Genre: Thriller
Video: 2.35:1 widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), 2.0 (English, French)
Language: English, French
Subtitle: English, Spanish
Length: 101 min
Rating: R
Release Date: 04/16/2002
Studio: Fox Searchlight Films
Commentary: Feature commentary with directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel
Documentaries: Sundance Channel's "Anatomy of a Scene"
Featurettes: Behind-the-scenes featurette
Filmography/Biography: None
Interviews: None
Trailers/TV Spots: One trailer, one TV spot
Alternate/Deleted Scenes: None
Music Video: None
Other: Still gallery
Cast and Crew: Tilda Swinton, Goran Visnjic, Jonathan Tucker, Peter Donat, Josh Lucas
Screenplay by: Written by: Scott McGehee, David Siegel
Produced by: Scott McGehee, David Siegel
Directed By: Scott McGehee, David Siegel
Music: Peter Nas
The Review:

As the lead actress of "The Deep End," the under-used Tilda Swinton projects an enormous variety of emotion in the role of a mother who, in her plight to keep her family safe, is running out of options. In one of the most brooding and effective performances of the year, she treats us to acting that brings the material above its aspirations. There are a few drawbacks within the plot itself, but it hardly matters when you find yourself mesmerized by her insatiable talents. ***

Swinton plays Margaret Hall, the wife of a naval officer away at sea, with three children, one of whom is her 17-year-old son Beau (Jonathan Tucker), a problem child whose closeted homosexuality gives her cause to worry about him. In her mind's eye, we revert to flashbacks of an accident; later, we learn he has been covorting around with a smooth-talking gambler thirteen years his senior. ***

In its early stages, the film already has the advantages of excellent characterization and peaked interest. We are witness to scenes between mother and son: in addition to understanding his reasons for shutting his mother out, there is an understanding of Beau in terms of his own emotional setbacks, and anyone who has been in his situation will more than likely relate easily to such displays of resentment and self-induced solitude. Margaret, on the other hand, reaches out to her son repeatedly, as if silently pleading with him to welcome her back into his life. ***

Our desire to know more about these people is moved to front burner once an accident leaves Beau's former lover dead along the shore behind their waterfront home. Margaret is the only one to see the body; in a gripping display of frantic irrationality and desperate panic, she throws the body into a dingy, along with the anchor that was his doom, and heads far from home, dumping the body in an obscure place with the anchor to weigh it down. *** From here on out, Swinton has us in her grip. Her performance in this pivotal scene is utteryly jaw-dropping, as she is able to evoke a sense of urgency and dilemna with a mere glance or slight gester, all with such ease and craftsmanship. When Margaret returns home, without telling anyone, not even Beau, about what has happened, we fully comprehend of her intentions and her reasoning; even if common sense tells us that she has done everything wrong to begin with, our understanding of her deep-rooted maternal instinct sells us on her desperation. *** The film takes a different turn in its second act. Margaret's hopes that she can begin to put the incident behind her are quickly dashed once Alek (Goran Visnjic), a sinister man claiming to hae business with her husband, shows up at her door with a home video of her son and his now-dead lover in a very gratuitous situation. Using the video as bait, he delivers her an ultimatum: either pay him and his partner $50,000 in twenty-four hours, or he will deliver a copy of the tape to the local police. *** And once again, we are privy to more of Swinton's exquisite acting, accompanied by that of Goran Visnjic, who displays a credilbe emotional range that makes what would otherwise be a clunky romance angle somewhat stomachable. During this period of race-against-the-clock hysteria, there are moments between the family that stick with the audience. *** Take, for instance, the exchange that comes after Margaret's car will not start; Beau offers her a ride into town, but she takes a cab, stating that she "would rather be alone." The silence after her statement, the expressions on their faces (his one of silent sadness, hers one of remorse), make such a scene emotionally impacting and resonant. The aforementioned video scene is marked by a pulsating soundtrack that relates the shock and disbelief of Margaret's character over what she is seeing; this, as well as others, are subject to stylistic injections from directors/producers/writers Scott McGehee and David Siegel, who use everything from the juxtaposition of light scenery with dark intentions, to fancy camera angles, to their advantage. *** It is such moments that make "The Deep End" more than just a generic thriller, though the thriller aspect of the story tends to be lacking. My own hope for the movie centered on the emotional breakdown of Swinton's character as she dreads the knock of a policeman at her door; the insertion of the blackmailing aggressor didn't quite do it for me (though a crucial speech in which Margaret becomes the aggressor is very well done, indeed). Even still, the film rises to untold heights with its emotional factor, and with Swinton, who goes off the deep end and achieves greatness. --

Image and Sound

A good sound mix and vivid colors mark the technical aspects of "The Deep End" as more than favorable. The image quality is superb, boasting varying warm and cold colors brought to exquisite perfection, with accurate fleshtones, little to no noise, and solid blacks. The sound is immersive, with full use of the surrounds for the musical score, and natural sounding dialogue.

The Extras

The special features for the quiet thriller "The Deep End" prove that you don't need a double-disc set to commendably market your movie. Of the two featurettes, the Sundance Channel's "Anatomy of a Scene" is the most interesting, the second being a two-minute puff piece composed mainly of interviews and plot-revealing scenes. "Scene," however, breaks the movie down by location, casting, story, etc, and features interviews with the cast and crew that go behind the characters, the plot, the feeling of the film, and more. And then you have the trailer, the TV spot, and the still gallery, all of which should make any movie lover more than happy.

Commentary The feature commentary that accompanies this well-acted thriller involves directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel discussing their film from various different angles. Their talk goes over everything from cinematography and the setting's effect on the material, to the acting of various cast members, who all turn in worthy performances.
Final Words:

"The Deep End" may not be the best movie of 2001, but it's a very involving film on various levels. The thriller tends to dwindle down to routine, but the family angle and relationships are impacting and honest. The DVD provides just enough material to accompany the film without overdoing it.


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May 5, 2002