THE DEEP END, stunningly written, directed and produced by Scott McGehee and
David Siegel, involves a murder cover-up and an associated blackmail scheme.
In a performance that one hopes will receive an Academy Award nomination,
Tilda Swinton plays Margaret Hall, an exasperated mother trying her best to
save her son, who has gotten himself into trouble again. She demonstrates a
palpable fear as she begins to do the unthinkable in order to shield her son
from the police by covering up a murder.
In this realistic story, life in the town doesn't come to a standstill, and
Margaret has the constant domestic responsibilities of caring for all three
of her children. The birds still chirp and life goes on as she finds
herself pushing way beyond any limits that she had ever her dreamed of. Her
breathing becomes labored and her face flushed, but she, most of all, must
keep up the appearance of normalcy.
We learn in a flashback that her oldest child, Beau (Jonathan Tucker), was
recently injured in a car accident. Alcohol was involved, as was Beau's
questionable new friend, Darby Reese (Josh Lucas). With Darby's little
mustache, he looks like a classic villain. He also gets the story's best
line, when he tells Beau that his mother knows what's going on between them.
"She's a mother, not a moron," he tells him.
Beau is a good kid with a bright future. He'll be on his way to college
shortly, but only if his mother is successful in shielding him from being
arrested for murder.
To complicate the mother's woes, Alek Spera (Goran Visnjic) shows up on her
doorstep demanding $50,000, or he will turn over a key piece of evidence to
the police. He turns out not to be at all what you'd expect in a
blackmailer. The entire story is told with quietness and subtlety, and his
reserved but persistent character fits right in.
The press notes mention that Alfred Hitchcock chose Elisabeth Sanxay
Holding's novel, "The Blank Wall," upon which the script is based, for his
classic anthology, "My Favorites in Suspense." It is easy to see why
Hitchcock was attracted to this tale. The best part of the story is that
early on the audience learns a key to the mystery of which neither the son
nor the mother is aware. And the son and the mother, who love each other
but don't communicate well -- sound familiar? -- also have a completely
different understanding of the basic facts of the case.
Set in a remote Tahoe house and filmed in cool blues and warm earth tones,
the picture has an intriguing and inviting look. We stay glued to the
screen, wanting to shout out suggestions to the characters and feeling like
crying about the tragedy in which they have found themselves engulfed. It
is filled with easy characters to empathize with.
As we see the time is winding down for the conclusion, we remain at a loss
to figure out how this story can ever be wrapped up. What you will remember
most after the movie is over is Tilda Swinton's amazing performance. One
hopes that the members of the Academy will also remember it when it comes
time to vote.
THE DEEP END runs 1:39. It is rated R for "some violence and language, and
for a strong sex scene" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes