The shadow that falls on Margaretís daily routine still doesnít erase her obligations to family and community.

THE DEEP END

An Illusion review by Joan Ellis


 

   The Deep End  is a thriller that turns the neat trick of dropping the audience fully into the lives of its players without resorting to the phony theatrics that allow detachment from a horror film. Scott McGehee and David Siegel, who wrote and directed, have made a wonderful movie that offers no such emotional emergency exit as it unfolds amidst the details of ordinary life.

                In the opening scene, Margaret Hall (Tilda Swinton) finds her way to an underground gay bar to confront the sleazy Darby Reece (Josh Lucas) with the ultimatum that he must stay away from her 17-year old son, Beau (Jonathan Tucker).  Margaret returns to her lovely house in Lake Tahoeís lakeside community to resume the obligations of the mass of detail involved in running the daily lives of her three children.  As she is caught in the dilemma of her oldest child, Margaret continues to deliver her younger children to ballet and baseball while tending to her fragile father-in-law. 

                The escalation begins in a boathouse meeting between Darby and Beau.  In a finely crafted scene, Beau, who has finally understood his motherís warning, tells Darby to leave.  A fight ensues, and Beau  walks up to the house thinking Darby will return to Las Vegas in his car.  Instead, a shaken Darby leans on a dock rail that gives way and is impaled on the fluke of an anchor as he falls off the dock.  Margaret, a coiled spring now, finds Darby, assumes her son has done the deed, loads the body into her outboard, and sinks it further down the lake.  The composed mother lets go just once, sobbing now by herself on Lake Tahoe.

                The shadow that falls on Margaretís daily routine still doesnít erase her obligations to family and community.  Fellow carpoolers donít notice that she is carrying far more than the daily schedule on her shoulders.  Watching Margaretís journey is harrowing, yet strangely satisfying.  Tilda Swinton, with a glitch-free American accent, creates Margaretís privileged, but lonely life without ever resorting to histrionics.

                Darby Reeseís boss sends Alek Spera (Goran Visnjic) to demand hush money based on video taped evidence of her son.  Margaret spends a prolonged period trying to raise $50,000 without her absent husbandís signature (he is on sea duty).  Mr. Visnjic puts marvelous shadings on the process that turns Alekís anger to respect as he watches the womanís struggle.  Jonathan Tucker is excellent as the boy whose mistakes plunge his mother into agony without ever losing the real values he has learned at home. 

                Margaret, who is measured and precise, and her son, whose character is deepening, build toward a genuinely fine final scene.  Bristling with natural suspense without the aid of tantrums, the movie is a test of inner strength in a decent family caught in trouble way over its head.  It is also a deep empathetic ache over the lengths a mother will go for a child.    

 


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