The Deep End (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

The Deep End is the thriller in which Tilda Swinton tries to cover up the death of her son's gay lover, then gets blackmailed by some other guys.

The strange thing about the plot is that the murder itself is a nearly-irrelevant McGuffin!

First, there is no murder. She covers it up because she thinks her son did it, but in fact the guy's death was just an accident!

Second, without the "murder", the completely unrelated blackmail plot doesn't work. The blackmailer comes to her with a film of her son having sex with the dead guy. Now if someone comes to you and says, "give me fifty grand or we'll reveal your son to be a homosexual who had sex with a dead guy", you say so what and call the police. But if you think that your son killed the guy in the film, after a lover's spat, then you think about paying up. So she pays up, or tries to.

I haven't spoiled anything by the way. That all occurs in the set-up phase of the film.

But here's the flaw - the blackmailers don't know that she or her son are involved in the murder. They're just really stupid and frankly overpriced blackmailers! In fact, the guy who actually presents her with the deal ends up falling in love with her, and settling for $8,500. His boss/partner is not thrilled with the outcome, and thus begins the REAL plot. Took long enough to get there.


Tilda Swinton goes in the water wearing white panties, a white bra and a white t-shirt
The movie is a good study of the impact of guilt on our behavior. Her guilt affects not only her response to the blackmailers, but her entire life, which becomes a living hell after she disposes of the body. Every police siren, every TV report, every newspaper story, every mention of the dead man, every conversation with her 'murderous" son, piles additional tension on her.  The coolest scene in the film occurs when she disposes of the body underwater and has to go back to it a second time to get the guy's car keys when she notices that the victim's car is parked in front of her house!

DVD info from Amazon.

Commentary by writers/ producers/ directors David Siegel and Scott McGehee
Theatrical trailer(s)
"The Anatomy of a Scene" - Sundance Special
Still Gallery
Widescreen anamorphic format, 2.35

Frankly, I thought this movie way way-a-a-y overrated by the critics. It is a pretty good Hitchcock clone with some tension in the moment, but the IMDB score of 7.0 - good but not great - was much more sensible than some of the critical encomiums. Tilda's single-note performance encompassing a single tense facial expression was also overrated, and her American accent often faltered. She is a great actress, but she did nothin' special here. 

I liked the name of the film, which has multiple meanings in the true literary tradition. It was the name of the gay club where she met her son's lover. It has obvious implications for certain types of sexual pleasure. It symbolizes the figurative place where she placed herself - "off the deep end", as well as the physical place where she buried the body. In another scene, we even saw her swimming in the deep end of a swimming pool!

Tuna's Thoughts

Scoopy is exactly right that the film is way over-rated by the critics, especially since the plot premise doesn't work. The dead guy was not  only dating Swinton's son, but told everyone in his club, the Deep End, that he was going there that night. Even police in a jerkwater town like Tahoe City would question the son. Second, we are asked to believe that two hoods would really take a homosexual porn tape showing the dead guy and a minor to the police. With such a stupid premise, upon which the entire plot hinges, the film lost me before it was well started. Not only that, Swinton showed a dramatic range not quite as great as a dead stump.

The Lake Tahoe location was lovely, and the photography was top notch. It is a shame the story wasn't tighter. IF you can turn off your mind, there are pluses, including Swinton swimming in her underwear. I can't give it more than a C, although, in most cases, I am a half step lower than Scoop on this type of film.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 3.5/4, Berardinelli 3.5/4, Apollo 82/100, BBC 2/5

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: profitable, despite a low gross and limited distribution. It grossed $9 million on a $3 million gross
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. It is a good Hitchcockesque fable about the effects of guilt on our behavior, but is not the taut masterpiece that some reviewers dubbed it.

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