Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 56 minutes, Director – Adrian Lyne
Worried about his marriage, Vic (Ben Affleck) finds himself caught up in the various disappearances and deaths of his wife’s (Ana de Armas) close friends and lovers.
“Why are you the only man who wants to stay with me?” Ana de Armas’ Melinda quietly asks her husband, Vic (Ben Affleck), on a quiet family day out. “I don’t know” he responds, echoing many of the thoughts of the audience up until this point. While we’re led to believe that Vic wants his marriage to succeed, and will do almost anything to avoid divorce, the question often arises as to why. It’s screamed throughout much of Deep Water; these two characters actively dislike, if not hate, each other. Vic constantly stalks his wife at parties and gatherings as she introduces the neighbourhood to her latest potential lover, whether ‘disguised’ as an old friend or a piano teacher. Meanwhile, Melinda throws such events into her husband’s face with violent anger, as if trying to make him jealous, as if letting him know that she can do so much better, and there’s nothing he can do about it – after all, what is he going to do? Divorce her?
An early confrontation sees Vic corner Melinda’s latest friend, Joel (Brendan Miller), as he tells the story of how he apparently killed her last lover. It’s a story to which the truth is unknown, however Joel certainly believes it, and so do some other figures in the area. None more so than Tracy Letts’ Don, who begins to suspect Vic of multiple murders when more of Melinda’s suspected affairs go missing, or are found dead. As the events pan out there’s a slightly circling feeling about them as if beginning repeat themselves. The script as a whole certainly isn’t perfect, there are a number of clunkily written scenes and sequences – it doesn’t completely sit well when Affleck’s character (who appears to have mastered the art of looking sad) unnaturally greets someone with a returned “yo”… – and yet there seems to be enough within Deep Water from stopping it from going completely off the rails.
The initial feeling is that of a film-within-a-film. A sort of parody of erotic thrillers that pokes fun at the clichés of the genre. Although, after the first couple of scenes this manages to just about avoid the feeling of parody (and self-awareness, and any basis for this being an ‘erotic’ thriller) as the narrative begins to take shape and the tensions between the unhappily married couple rise. The drama plods along without any overall issues and while some elements bring a question to the mind they’re soon passed along within the extended nature to most scenes and sequences as the accusations made about Vic grow stronger, and yet nothing ever really changes.
Lil Rel Howery makes brief appearances as a friend of Vic’s. Yet, it’s unclear whether his character, Grant, is meant to be there for occasional comic relief or not. It feels as if Howery is playing the character straight, and yet the director and screenplay appear to want laughs. This idea is pushed further when the third act arrives, and along with it perhaps one of the messiest chases ever on screen. One in which, after everything that has happened so far and the over-heightened drama of a number of elements in the 15-20 minutes that have built up to this point, the realism truly comes through in that someone is hindered by autocorrect. It’s an oddly placed moment, even within this film and is perhaps the true point, where after wondering if it has for so long, it becomes clear that the film has gone off the rails.
The remainder of the sequence, and indeed the film, simply feels drawn out and uncertain as to where to go or what to do with itself. Throwing a number of hopefully feasible ideas into the mix and hoping that something good will come of them. While there are some amusing patches the general tone is that of ridiculousness and chaos. The decisions made are generally questioned and the ending as a whole feels uncertain of itself, simply leading to an extremely odd credits scene decision. It almost feels as if the final stages of the film have come from somewhere completely different, in a blind panic of needing to end things and not quite knowing how to. While what came before was slightly disjointed it was at least somewhat watchable, if not entirely great. And yet, the film eventually loses its paddle and gets caught within its own chaotic riptide of ideas. Although, a riptide nowhere near as violent as the hatred that the central married couple appear to have for each other, and the baffling confusion it creates when they talk about how much they apparently love each other and not getting a divorce.
A number of the elements that make up Deep Water aren’t great, yet for the most part there’s still something generally watchable. That is until things fall off the rails and become a sequence of undeveloped ideas and moments, trying to get to an uncertain ending.