Now playing in limited release, The Deep End has received generally excellent reviews, most of them focusing on the lead performance by Tilda Swinton. It is an exceptional performance; the movie wouldn't work without it. The trailer makes the film look like a thriller, but it's not. It's more of a domestic drama, sparked by a series of traumatic events. Swinton plays Margaret Hall, a mother of three, whose husband is a naval officer away at sea. She lives with her children and father-in-law (niced played by Peter Donat) in a house on the shore of Lake Tahoe. The gorgeous setting, beautifully showcased in the 2.35:1 widescreen photography, serves as an ironic counterpoint to the dark events forming the plot. Margaret's son Jonathan is applying to college and trying to win a music scholarship. He has also fallen into a relationship with an older man, Darby Reese, that is causing his mother concern (for reasons which we learn as the film unfolds; it's not what you might expect). As the film opens, Margaret tracks down Darby in a gay bar in Reno and asks him to leave her son alone. The sequence sets much of the film's tone, and it's remarkable for the emotional layers that Swinton is able to show as Margaret propels herself into an alien territory that repels and frightens her, but which she is determined to brave for Jonathan's sake. Darby isn't to be dissuaded, and eventually Margaret finds herself being blackmailed by Alek Spera (played by Goran Visnjic) in ways that can't be described without giving away too much of the plot. Suffice it to say that Alek is not your usual blackmailer; that role is filled by his partner, Nagle, a brutal and unpleasant fellow who hovers in the background until late in the film, and then intervenes in a memorable fashion. The film is really about Margaret's willingness to do whatever is necessary to protect and care for her family -- whether it involves making sure that her daughter gets to a dance recital on time (and dutifully attending the performance), caring for her well-meaning but clueless father-in-law, looking out for Jonathan's scholarship prospects, negotiating with a blackmailer, raising hush money, or covering up an apparent crime. As in Blood Simple, none of the characters has the full story, and all of them do things that don't turn out as planned. The plot makes room for the kinds of random elements that routinely shape people's actions in real life -- a car that won't start, a character's inability to handle a stickshift, a sudden physical ailment, an unexpected act of charity from the least likely source -- but that often feel arbitrary when they're used in movies. Not here. The plot of The Deep End reaches a resolution, but it doesn't feel neat or final. You're left with a vaguely troubling sense of the precariousness of life and the vigilance needed to protect against the dark forces that can suddenly invade the most ordinary existence. Highly recommended. M.