The Deep End
dir-scr Scott McGehee, David Siegel
with Tilda Swinton, Goran Visnjic, Jonathan Tucker, Peter Donat, Josh Lucas, Raymond Barry, Tamara Hope, Jordan Dorrance, Heather Mathieson, Holmes Osborne, Kip Martin, Margot Krindel
release US 8.Aug.01; UK 2.Nov.01
Fox 01/US 1h41
3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
the deep end This is one of those slow-burn dramatic thrillers that really gets into the heads of its characters and uses its settings to maximum effect. It's creepy and fascinating ... yet sadly doesn't amount to much. We're in stunningly picturesque Lake Tahoe, California, where Margaret Hall (Swinton) is a woman fiercely dedicated to her three kids and her father-in-law (Donat), especially since her husband is stationed on a distant US Naval carrier. When her 17-year-old son Beau (Tucker) is in a car crash, she's shocked to find out that not only has he been drinking, but he was in the car with his 30-year-old gay lover Darby (Lucas). At wit's end already, she is even more horrified to find Darby's body washed up on the lakeshore behind the house. So she hides it to protect her son, then finds herself at the mercy of two blackmailers (Visnjic and Barry) from across the state line in Reno. But maybe one of them will have some compassion....

The film's beautiful cinematography and intelligent direction help paper over the thinness of the story, holding our interest even though the film lacks the energy to keep us riveted to our seats. Performances are excellent; at the centre of the storm Swinton gives another terrifically muted, internal turn--sparkier than ever, which isn't saying much in her case! Visnjic gives a nicely sensitive portrayal of a thug with a brain and heart (although one scene calls ER to mind a bit too clearly, drawing giggles from the audience). As events spiral out of control, the film tightens its grip on the themes and situations. But it never goes anywhere significant and fails to actually confront the issues it raises, never letting the characters speak to each other about all the things they're suppressing. Are family members really this insular, even in the face of real terror? I don't think so. You long for them to open up even a little to each other. Maybe the final scene hints that they will, but this lack of depth keeps the film from ever coming to life in a meaningful way.
adult themes and situations, violence, language cert 15 7.Sep.01

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2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall