Deep Water is a 2022 erotic psychological thriller film directed by Adrian Lyne, from a screenplay by Zach Helm and Sam Levinson, based on the 1957 novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith. Lyne, of course, is best known for erotic film thrillers like Fatal Attraction, Indecent Proposal, 9½ Weeks and is his first film in 20 years.
S P O I L E R S
Deep Water’s premise is disturbing and emotionally charged. Vic (Ben Affleck) and Melinda Van Allen (Anas de Armas) are a couple with a daughter, Trixie (Grace Jenkins), living in the small town of Little Wesley, Louisiana. Their loveless marriage is held together only by a precarious arrangement whereby, in order to avoid the messiness of divorce, Melinda is allowed to take any number of lovers as long as she does not desert her family. However, Melinda’s lovers begin to mysteriously disappear and naturally, Vic seems to be responsible.
Now, the film is quite faithful to the storyline of the original novel (except the ending) but sacrifices any narrative drive by making Vic the main character. For at least an hour into the film, that bizarre arrangement between Vic and Melinda is played out without any indication whose dramatic need the story is serving. Then, another of Melinda’s lovers – piano teacher Charlie De Lisle – is drowned in the swimming pool with Vic the last person to see him alive. Later, we have Vic thinking about the murder and it appears that he was responsible. Melinda accuses Vic of killing Charlie in front of the police.
However, apart from nosy neighbour – writer Don Wilson (Tracy Letts) – nobody, not even the police, even remotely suspects Vic. Everything returns to normal and Melinda picks up yet another lover – Tony Cameron – and the cycle begins again, ending inevitably with Vic jealously eliminating yet another rival. But this time, Melinda and Don are working in concert to expose Vic’s crimes. Should we be rooting for the murderous cuckold, the adulterous wife or the annoying neighbour? How to, when they are all equally unlikeable and impossible to engage with?
This is the major problem with Deep Water. Apart from being a narrative mess, there is nobody the audience can identify with. Worse still, when the two leads are somewhat one-dimensional. Affleck is sleepwalking throughout and de Armas is sexy, no doubt, but perhaps too hyper-sexualised to gain any sympathy whatsoever. In fact, the best thing about Deep Water is 8-year-old Grace Jenkins, who plays little Trixie, and that in itself tells you everything. Avoid!
Now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
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