The Deep End

The Deep End

I really enjoyed the first film by these two directors, Suture, a sleek film noir about twin brothers, with the novel twist of having one twin played by a black actor, and the other by a white actor, and only the audience is in on the joke: all the other characters can't tell them apart. That the film worked - and not at all as a comedy - was a testament to the talent of these two new filmmakers, and I looked forward to their next effort. Well here it is, eight long years later, and McGehee and Siegel turn another noir standard on its ear. Here they take the 1949 film The Reckless Moment, the story of a mother covering up for the death of her teenage daughter's cruel boyfriend, and give it a spin by making the teenager a boy, and the dead man his gay lover.

English actress Tilda Swinton mostly succeeds at hiding her native accent as an aghast American housewife, trying to raise three kids while her Navy husband is constantly away, and quickly getting in over her head when she discovers the body of her son's tormentor dead on the shore of their Lake Tahoe home. Fearing her son might have been responsible, she quietly disposes of the corpse and opens the door to trouble. You'd better suspend your disbelief willingly if you're going to enjoy The Deep End, for there are moments aplenty where you want to yell out, "Why doesn't she just call the police?!" Just enjoy the film's moody, waterlogged visuals, held up by Peter Nashel's spare score. The luminous Swinton is fine (if a little too serious), as is Jonathan Tucker as her troubled son and Goran Visnjic as the blackmailer drawn into her family crisis. (Too bad Raymond J. Barry, as Visnjic's blackmail partner, overacts so much that he almost turns the film into a late-night Cinemax potboiler.)

The Deep End is a clever, solemn little thriller that may leave you cold but is exceptionally well-crafted. And in the end it suggests that maybe you're not supposed to pay any attention to its serpentine plot, or its vague conclusion, or its unanswered questions. That ultimately it's about the bond between mother and child, where Swinton's real challenge isn't to believe in her son's innocence, but to accept his sexuality.