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*** Official "THE DEEP END" Review Thread (1 Viewer)

Michael Reuben

Senior HTF Member
Feb 12, 1998
Real Name
Michael Reuben
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.

Chris Dugger

Supporting Actor
Jun 5, 1998
This thread is now the Official Review Thread for "The Deep End". Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread. Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items should be posted to this thread !.
Again, without warning, I will delete all posts that are not a HTF member review!
Thank you for your consideration in this matter.
[Edited last by Robert Crawford on October 03, 2001 at 04:13 PM]

Kirk Tsai

Nov 1, 2000
I felt The Deep End was a missed oppurtunity. The film is filled with good performances, led by Tilda Swinton; it is shot beautifully, fully utilizing the Tahoe scenery, and it also has several relationships, mostly revolving Margaret, that are very interesting. What boggles down the movie for me were several logic flaws, the most important one dealing with the character Alek.
Revealing what I think about Alek's character is revealing too much about the plot, but simply the making the storyline concerning about his blackmail was somewhat puzzling to me. All of what he does in the movie to show us Margaret's life and character could have been done with a police investigation. Even if an investigation by the police sounds too cliched, this current storyline diminishes their role far too great, not to mention the impact of Darby's death on Beau. Beau is far too reactionary a character for this situation. The blackmail storyline has at least two elements that are jarring or illogical. Several key items surrounding the death of Darby is also left too open, even if the film tries to be more of a drama than thriller.
The strongest parts of the film are those that deal with Margaret's daily routines under enormous pressure. In their first scene together, Alek tells Margaret to pay $50,000. When Margaret opens to say "four," we immediately think that she is trying to negotiate the price. Instead, it is merely a time change to fit her schedule with her children. All of the small touches like these are wonderful, brought about beautifully by Swinton. It is a thrill to watch her throughout the movie, trying to save her son and family life all at once desperately.
Despite my problems with the film's central plot, I still enjoyed the film very much. It certainly made me care about Margaret a great deal. It is attention grabbing throughout, and the relationships between Margaret and her surrounding characters are all top notch.

Mark Pfeiffer

Jun 27, 1999
Michael asked me to post a review, so I guess now is as good of a time as any. I'll keep it brief, though.
The Deep End is one of the tighter suspense films in recent memory. (It stacks up favorably with With a Friend Like Harry in this department.) Tilda Swinton gives a commanding lead performance, and the films looks great considering what I assume to be a low budget.
There short, sweet, and to the point. Go see it.
(I expect most will have the opportunity to see it come August 22, when it goes wide.)
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Jason Whyte

Jun 3, 1999
I saw this in Vancouver on Wednesday and thought I would briefly post my comments:
This is an outstanding film, a thriller that is edgy, taut and incredibly suspensful, and also very entertaining.
The critics are right on this one, Tilda Swinton's performance is nothing short of remarkable. A powerful, courageous performance that I haven't seen since Ellen Burstyn in "Requiem For A Dream."
The film opens wide today and I certainly hope it is in your area. A wonderful thriller.
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Brook K

Senior HTF Member
Feb 22, 2000
I thought the movie's plot was too conventional to be something truly special. I appreciated Swinton's performance and the evocative, unsettling score but I didn't feel like the 3rd act worked very well. It never sold me on the fact that Swinton was in any danger. Also I think the movie does wrap everything up in a nice bow. The more I think about it, the less I like it.
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Mark Cappelletty

Senior HTF Member
Jun 6, 1999
Saw it yesterday and thought it was very interesting-- reminded me, in both tone and visual aesthetics, of Soderbergh's "The Underneath."
However, one giant caveat-- DO NOT go see this film (you Los Angeles HTFers) in Manhattan Beach. The projector acted up throughout the entire film, causing an awful hum out of the front right speaker. It was so bad that audience members left and they had to shut the film down to adjust the projector (which still hummed). Fortunately, we all got readmission tickets for any showing at any Pacific Theater. I'm holding on to mine to go the über-expensive El Capitan when "Monsters Inc." comes out in November.


Taken For Ballast
Senior HTF Member
Apr 19, 1999
Metro NYC
Real Name
What a refreshing film that was!
I really enjoyed The Deep End. It was a very tense, extremely well acted, beautifully shot, suspenseful, original "little" film.
The performance by Tilda Swinton as Margaret was amazing. I predict an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. She reminded me of Cate Blanchett and Emma Thompson. A fully realized character forced to do whatever she had to do to protect her family.
Almost as good a performance was given by Goran Visnjic as Alek. Here was another character that was in danger of becoming a stereotype, but was thankfully spared that fate by a truly surprising chain of events.
The story builds slowly and deliberately and thankfully steers away from countless other similar type films by exhibiting an above average story with above average performances with a below average budget.
A highly recommended suspense film and one of the years best. I give The Deep End THREE AND A HALF STARS

Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus.

Edwin Pereyra

Senior HTF Member
Oct 26, 1998
Scott McGehee and David Siegel as co-writers, co-producers and co-directors are to be commended for revisiting and reworking a conventional storyline and turning it into an unpredictable, suspenseful and evocative thriller. At times, films by new directors are automatically discounted unless they deliver something truly fresh, shocking or a film with a big plot twist. The Deep End manages to be an effective thriller and also as a film about unspoken love. It’s nice to see films that also turn out to be something else. This is the second feature film from both directors who has previously collaborated on Suture, another thriller.
The film grabbed my attention from the very beginning and contains one of the best female performances so far this year, Tilda Swinton. She pretty much carried the entire film and I agree that it wouldn’t have worked well without her performance.
My local paper wrote that the film contains a lot of plot holes, one of which is why the body was dropped at the shallowest part of the lake. I kept thinking about this last night and after a good night’s sleep, that action made perfect sense. By doing so, it made everyone a suspect and not just those people with boats that live along the shores of the lake.
The Deep End rates
(out of four).

Walter Kittel

Senior HTF Member
Dec 28, 1998
I had the pleasure of viewing The Deep End yesterday evening; which BTW was the perfect film to cap off my August 'noir-fest'. From the opening shot of the film, with Swinton ringing the buzzer at the club, with the lines on the wall of the club running towards infinity; I knew that the filmmakers were going to deliver a visually stimulating film. And deliver they did. ( I agree that for a 'low budget' film, it looks wonderful. There are some great shots in the film. My favorite being Spoiler: the closeup on the faces of Margaret and Alek when Margaret reaches across Alek into the car. That one shot communicates a lot about the relationship that develops between Alek and Margaret. )
I'm in complete agreement with those who have praised Swinton's performance. What struck me about the character was the quietness and the seemingly infinite patience she exhibited while confronting one adversity after another. Swinton did an excellent job of always holding her characterization and created a very sympathetic character. Goran Visnjic's Alek is quite compelling as well, and creates an interesting character whose metamorphosis was always believable ( which was vital to the film's plot and credibility. )
The evolution of the relationship between Margaret and Jonathon was nicely laid out, and created some genuine emotion in the film as well, which tied in with the issues of family that are at the center of this film.
Aside from Tilda Swinton's marvelous performance, what struck me about the film was how well executed everything 'felt'. The word 'taut' has been used to describe this film, and I agree. But in addition to the tautness of the storyline or the suspense generated by the plotline, was how tight the film felt in terms of its construction; especially with regards to editing. It is always a pleasure to view a film that has a sense of 'craft' to it; and this film certainly qualifies.
I loved this film and enjoyed every moment. Easily one of the best I've viewed this year.
- Walter.
As is my wont, I immediately flashed to Barry Newman's Jim Avery in The Limey when I saw Raymond J. Barry's Carlie Nagle in The Deep End. I would assume that any similarities were strictly coincidental; just posting the observation.
[Edited last by Walter Kittel on September 03, 2001 at 09:28 PM]

Patrick Sun

Senior HTF Member
Jun 30, 1999
I thought it was mundane, a little on the tepid side. This is the last time I use Rotten Tomatoes to decide on seeing a film. The energy level of this film is just languid. The performances were okay, but the screenplay just laid there on the bottom of the lake, plus just too many unanswered questions by the time the credits rolled left a bad taste in my mouth.
I also had no idea what was up with Alec (Goran) character, but I LOL when one of the characters suffered a heart attack, and the Swinton character asked Alec if he knew CPR. Given that he plays Kovach on ER (a doctor), it just produced unintentional laughter from me.
I give it a grade of B-, or 2.5 stars.
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Aaron Hose

Nov 10, 1999
I will try to keep it short and concise...
I finally got around to seeing it... very good film. Most of the elements were well executed... the performances (of course, Tilda's being the strongest of them all), the photography, and the production design. I do wish, however, that Alek's motivation for helping Margaret was a bit more explained. Sure, his was a slow metamorphosis, even somewhat "a-la Grinch" (from heartless foe to hero), but still, it would have been nice to connect that last dot... how, I don't know.
The film's subtleties I felt were cleverly reinforced by the photography and production design. My favorite shot in the film was when we see Margaret step foot in the house, and we see her reflection "trapped inside a falling waterdrop." Also, the shot where Margaret's reaching for the money and her lips are mere inches away from Alek's... the shot truly represents the growing sexual tension between the two characters. Also, the color blue as a motif... it was everywhere... in the club, in the costumes, on the walls... even in the opening shot... it's as if blue is the symbol of the deep, dark secret that lies at the bottom of the lake... For Beau, it's his sexuality (which is kept secret from everyone except his mother), and for Margaret and Alek, the two murders, not to mention their mutual appreciation for one another (and increasing physical attraction). From the opening, even the music had a distinct feel to it... very quiet, at times eerie.
Hitchcokcian? Not exactly, but pretty close.

- A.
[Edited last by Aaron Hose on September 29, 2001 at 07:16 PM]

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