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The Deep End

The Deep End is reminiscent of last winter's The Pledge. Both are centered around a Pacific Northwest lake-front town in the summer, both plots involve a crime with sexual overtones, and both feature a towering lead performance (The Pledge had Jack Nicholson, The Deep End has Tilda Swinton). And in both cases, my reaction was strangely muted.

Part of the problem with each film is that it's hard to make a thriller when the sun is out. Despite The Deep End's gorgeous cinematography (courtesy of Giles Nuttgens, Fire) and its evocative portrayal of the solitary side of Tahoe, California, the story's inherent tension is often diffused.

The story opens with Margaret Hall (Swinton) confronting Darby Reese (Josh Lucas), a man in his 30's who's been hanging around her 17-year-old son. Her taciturn son Beau (Jonathan Tucker) doesn't want to talk about the relationship. But the next morning, Hall finds Reese floating face-down in the water near her boat house and she assumes that her son is somehow involved. In an instant, she makes one of those decisions that always comes back to haunt cinematic characters--she takes the body and disposes of it on the other side of the lake.

Soon, there's a knock on the door, but surprisingly it's not the police. Instead, it's some "business associates" of Reese, who want to recover the money owed them and think extorting it out of Margaret is their best
chance. What follows are Hall's attempts to raise the money while convincing the men (played by the dark and handsome Goran Visnjic and the frightening Raymond Barry) that she doesn't have it.

The Deep End is worth seeing just to see Tilda Swinton's fantastic performance. She *is* the protective mother caught between a rock and a hard place. Her conversations with her son are perfectly pitched, and her
growing fear is palpable. Goran Visnjic, best known as one of the heartthrobs on E.R., is adequate though his character's transformation halfway through the film is not terribly convincing. The supporting cast are worthwhile. The Deep End is an intelligent thriller that's more intelligent than thrilling. 

by J. Robert Parks 8/13/2001

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