The Deep End


Directed by: Scott McGehee, David Siegel
Written by:Scott McGehee, David Siegel
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Goran Visnjic, Jonathan Tucker, Peter Donat, Josh Lucas
Released: November 22, 2001
Grade: A-

Living with her three children and grandfather at Lake Tahoe, Nevada, Margaret Hall (Swinton) is a regular, quiet, unassuming mother.  Her husband is a navy admiral and most always away at sea.  Margaret has just learned that Beau (Tucker), her 17-year-old son, is having a relationship with a 30-year-old gay nightclub owner named Darby Reese (Lucas).

Out of concern for her son, Margaret confronts Darby and tells her never to see Beau again.  Darby doesn’t care and the very same night travels from Reno to see his lover.  Beau sneaks out to meet Darby in the boat shed but the two heatedly argue over his mother’s wishes and Beau heads back into the house.

Throughout this, Margaret has been working on her laptop upstairs and heard noises emanating from the shed.  The next morning she investigates and finds the dead body of Darby Reese impaled on an anchor by the shoreline.  The guard rail of the jetty ramp was broken in the spot from where Darby fell.

Believing that Beau has pushed Darby to his death, Margaret acts to protect her son.  Taking the body out on her dingy, she disposes of it in the lake.  Her problems though are only beginning.  Within days, the body is found.  Just as quickly, a man by the name of Alek Spera (Visnjic) arrives on her doorstep with a videotape of her son and Darby Reese engaging in sexual activity.  If she does not pay $50,000 within 24 hours, he will hand the tape over to police, implicating Beau in the murder.

The Deep End is an extremely well-woven drama.  What begins as a murder cover-up becomes a much deeper, darker tale.  Writer/directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel make it impossible to foretell the film’s direction.  This isn’t a good versus evil story where the lines are clearly defined.  This is a movie about secrets and the actions that result when we keep secrets from those we love.

Tilda Swinton (The Beach) is brilliant and flawlessly captures her character’s emotional state.  Within 24 hours, she’s gone from being the mother of a perfect son with unlimited academic potential, to the mother of a son who’s just murdered his gay lover.  The shock and adrenaline of the situation causes her to act without thinking of the ramifications.  All she wants is the problem to go away but as more people become involved, the hole only gets deeper.

The cinematography from Giles Nuttgens is a worthy talking point.  The wide expansive shots of the breathtaking vistas around the lake contrast heavy close-ups of the actors themselves (particularly in the car) to intensify their emotions.  Nuttgens was rewarded with the top cinematography prize at the recent Sundance Film Festival.

Without spoiling or revealing any of the film’s messages, The Deep End throws convention out the window to tell a story the way it should be.  Just don't keep this film a “secret”!