The Deep End

on August 10, 2001 by Annlee Ellingson
   While relying on the compelling performance of lead Tilda Swinton, "Deep End" writers-directors-producers Scott McGehee and David Siegel go a step further, creating a film as visually arresting as its story.

   In the opening scene, a bold Reno, Nevada soccer mom, Margaret Hall (Swinton), visits a seedy nightclub in the middle of the day, asking to see one Darby Reese. Suspecting he's her teenage son Beau's gay lover and that he was involved in his alcohol-related car accident over the weekend, she asks him to stay away from Beau.

   That night, Darby shows up at the Halls' residence on Lake Tahoe anyway, drawing Beau (Jonathan Tucker) out to the boathouse. The two quarrel over the $5,000 Darby asked for to keep his distance and, after Beau returns to the house, Darby falls off the dock, impaling himself on an anchor in the sand.

   The next morning, Margaret discovers the body on her morning run and, not knowing exactly what happened but recognizing the consequences of such a discovery, dumps it in the middle of the lake, hoping to protect her son and her family.

   But while the police don't make the connection to the Halls when the submerged body is fished out by an angler, Alec Spero (Goran Visnijic) does. Darby owed him money, and unless Margaret pays it, he'll reveal to the police and the media what he knows about Beau's relationship with the dead man--rather, he'll release the video tape.

   Margaret's reaction (and Swinton's performance) as she watches the explicit footage epitomizes the character: She's not disgusted nor ashamed. She just wants to protect her child, and she does so without confronting him about his actions or letting on that she's in trouble because of him. She's his mom.

   With 24 hours to raise the cash, and her military husband unreachable somewhere in the North Atlantic, Margaret juggles visits to the bank and wrangling with her creditors with carpooling to trumpet lessons, water polo and ballet concerts. Unable to find the funds, she appeals to Alec to give her more time. He's sympathetic, especially after witnessing her father-in-law Jack's heart attack and saving his life, but his partner's insistent, so he becomes a reluctant participant and ironically the only person she can trust.

   The personification of motherhood, Swinton is fearless when it comes to shielding her family from harm while maintaining a façade of normalcy. Visnijic's performance as a bad guy with a conscience is likewise stirring, as is Tucker's as a son who so adores his mother, despite their recent differences of opinion, that he'll do anything she asks, recognizing her desperation if not knowing what it's about.

   Meanwhile, McGehee and Siegel maintain a metaphor of water throughout the picture, setting up scenes shot through a fish tank or a drop suspended tenuously from the kitchen sink faucet, and positioning important plot points--such as Jack's collapse while carrying a jug to the water cooler--around the fluid. Margaret's problems started when she discovered Darby's body among the waves lapping at the shore and escalated when she submerged him in the middle of the lake, but in essence, it is she who is drowning under the weight of her responsibilities to her family and her children.    Starring Tilda Swinton, Goran Visnijic, Jonathan Tucker, Peter Donat, Josh Lucas and Raymond Barry. Directed, written and produced by Scott McGehee and David Siegel. A Fox Searchlight release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 99 min.

Tags: Starring Tilda Swinton, Goran Visnijic, Jonathan Tucker, Peter Donat, Josh Lucas and Raymond Barry, Directed, written, produced by Scott McGehee, David Siegel, Fox, Drama

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