The Deep End (15)

Review by Jack Foley

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director's audio commentary; Stills gallery; Interview with Anthony Hopkins; Ratio: 16:9; Languages: English, German.

INSPIRED by the novel The Blank Wall, by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding in the 1940s, The Deep End is the type of tightly wrapped psychological thriller which harks back to the golden age of cinema - that is to say, it is intelligent, smart and impeccably played.

Directed by Scott MeGehee and David Siegel and starring the sublime Tilda Swinton and ER's Goran Visjnic, The Deep End opened to positively glowing reviews in the US during a summer filled with disappointing blockbusters and it is easy to see why.

While certainly not action packed, the film is an intricately plotted, character-driven piece which ultimately delivers a genuinely heartfelt conclusion a million miles away from the sugarcoated excesses of most mainstream fare.

The plot poses the question of how far a mother will go to protect her children. Swinton is the mother in question, a minder of three whose husband is serving in the Navy and, hence, away and virtually out of contact.

When she discovers the dead body of her son's shady gay lover within the grounds of her home, Swinton's Margaret Hall wrongly assumes that her son is responsible and sets about disposing of the evidence.

But it isn't long before she finds herself being blackmailed by two get-rich-quick opportunists (fronted by Visjnic's quiet, almost melancholic loner, who are far more concerned at exposing her son's embarrassing sexuality than blaming him for the 'murder'.

But as Swinton struggles to come up with the money, Visjnic begins to take pity on her, forming an unlikely friendship and eventually falling in love with her, all the time aware of the danger posed by his sadistic partner.

It is the resolution of this blackmail and subsequent moral dilemma which forms the remainder of the movie and I shall reveal no more, suffice to say that this is not your typical Hollywood package.

Visjnic's relationship with Swinton is wonderfully underplayed, while we can only guess at his reasons for helping.

If the pacing is a little too tedious for some people, others will simply marvel at the many twists in the story and the quality of its performances. Visjnic goes some way to removing `that dishy Croatian doc from the hit US series' tag with a performance of simmering anxiety, while Swinton, quite simply, is a revelation - at times gutsy, at others vulnerable, but always caring and always confused. To find her name on an Oscar shortlist would come as no surprise.

The directors' use of location is also first rate, as is his ability to avoid the obvious - characters seldom do what you expect of them, leading to an ending which is difficult to predict.

The Deep End certainly won't appeal to mainstream audiences; but for those who like their cinema thoughtful, intense and well acted, this offers plenty to dive into.

RELATED STORIES: Click here to find out where The Deep End featured in my top 10 films of 2001...
Click here for Tilda Swinton's Q&A on the making of the film.