Deep End, The

Stars:   Tilda Swinton, Goran Visnjic, Jonathan Tucker, Peter Donat
Directors: Scott McGehee and David Siegel
Writers: Scott McGehee and David Siegel, from the novel “The Blank Wall” by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding

As a crime drama, The Deep End is stunningly beautiful in its simplicity despite layered complications that threaten to annihilate the film’s heroine. The film is deeply involving thanks to Tilda Swinton’s terrifically spare performance and a neatly wrapped story.

Swinton plays Margaret Hall, the mother of three children, whose husband, a naval officer, is away at sea for much of the time. They live in a lovely house they share with her father-in-law Jack, on the shores of Lake Tahoe in Nevada.

As the film opens, Margaret is seen confronting a 30-year old gay club owner named Darby (Josh Lucas) who has been having a homosexual affair with her eldest son Beau (Jonathan Tucker) who’s 17. She asks Darby to stay away, and for $5,000, Darby says he’ll oblige her.

Some major plot elements have to be revealed to continue the review but I’ll be brief.

Darby makes an appearance at the house that night, enticing Beau, unbeknownst to Margaret, to join him for a little interlude. Things don’t go how either of them expect; they fight and Darby ends up dead, quite accidentally. But Beau doesn’t learn of this until much later. Margaret discovers the body the next morning. Quick assumption on her part and all she can see is Beau’s illustrious future being washed away. Beau is a talented musician, ready to be accepted into a prestigious college on a grant. Such a devoted mother Margaret is that she takes it upon herself to conceal the body. And all because she made the simple and very wrong assumption that Beau was guilty of murder.

Watching how she deals with the cascade of events that follow is remarkable. At first she seems a foolish woman, but Margaret reveals herself to be resourceful and determined and Swinton portrays these qualities with the barest of effort. So when she finally breaks, it’s all that more real. There is a fascinating relationship between Margaret and a blackmailer, Goran Visnjic as Alek Spera, who has no stomach for the chore given him. It is this element that propels the film into covering new ground.

Lotta says: The Deep End is an intense and beautifully made melodrama.

Reviewed 5/6/02