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    The Deep End

    You can "Deep End" on her

    Tilda Swinton turns in a commanding performance in "The Deep End," about a mother who loses her son to a bad crowd, and then makes everything worse when she finds her son's friend dead.


    With three pre- to mid-teen children and an aging father-in-law to care for — cooking and cleaning and laundry, dropoffs at Little League practice and pickups from ballet practice — Margaret Hall's life is rife with complications. And with her naval-officer husband stationed somewhere in the North Atlantic, virtually impossible to reach by telephone, Margaret leads the crazed life of a single parent.

    Written and directed by: Scott McGehee, David Siegel.
    Adapted from a story by: Elisabeth Sanxay Holding.
    Cast: Tilda Swinton, Goran Visnjic, Jonathan Tucker, Peter Donat, Josh Lucas, Raymond J. Barry, Tamara Hope, Jordon Dorrance, Margo Krindel.

    Related links: All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
    But Margaret's hectic world is about to get a lot more complicated. Her teenage son Beau, a talented trumpet player with strong prospects of being accepted into Wesleyan University's music program, has fallen in with the wrong crowd. His mother drives from their idyllic, lakeside community of Tahoe City, California to the sprawling urban metropolis of Reno, Nevada, with its imposing concrete superstructures and seedy neon-lit nightclubs, to confront the 30-something man who has befriended Beau.

    "Stay away from my son" Margaret warns Darby Reese. Her words, however, appear to fall on deaf ears as Reese turns up drunk at the family homestead later that evening, urging Beau to join him in the boathouse. There are words and advances and some pushing and shoving and Beau runs back into the house, past his startled mother, as the crack of a wooden railing giving way breaks the cold blue silence and an intoxicated Reese tumbles out of sight.

    The next day, on her morning walk, Margaret discovers Reese's lifeless body lying crumpled on the shoreline, a boat anchor impaled in his chest. With her maternal instincts working overtime, Margaret quickly ferries the body out into the lake, weighs it down, and dumps it overboard. But Margaret's life is about to get a lot more complicated. Soon after the body is discovered, snagged on a local fisherman's line, Margaret is paid a visit by an attractive-seeming blackmailer in a red Nova. Alek Spera threatens to hand over compromising videotape of Beau to the police unless Margaret comes up with $50,000 by 4 o'clock the next day.

    But Margaret's life is about to get a lot more complicated, for Alek turns out to be something she never expected.

    Based on Elisabeth Sanxay Holding's novel "The Blank Wall," "The Deep End" is a well-crafted thriller written and directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel ("Suture"). It makes the most of a talented but not particularly well-known cast — Goran Visnjic plays Alek with a suave likeability, Jonathan Tucker shines as the conflicted Beau, Peter Donat is amusing as grandfather Hall, and Josh Lucas has an equally small but effective role as the hapless Darby Reese. The film is also lovingly photographed by Giles Nuttgens and features an evocative score, courtesy Peter Nashel.

    But it owes everything to British actress Tilda Swinton. Swinton, whose pale-faced ethereal beauty has graced "Orlando" and many of Derek Jarman's films ("Caravaggio," "Edward II," "The Last of England"), plays Margaret Hall in "The Deep End" and, like Charlotte Rampling in this year's "Under the Sand," turns in a commanding and accomplished performance. Margaret is a devoted mother who is willing to risk everything to protect the ones she loves, and Swinton captures every frustration, every fear, every subtle examination and every fervent realization and every nervous oscillation of her being. The role calls for an extremely wide range of emotions, not the least of which is simply playing a mother beset with a multitude of domestic responsibilities.

    Many can relate to that, of course; it's the murder coverup and the blackmail and the fear of losing one's son that Swinton so gracefully, so graciously, makes resonate with the truest of colors. The end is deep all right, and there isn't a single shallow moment in Tilda Swinton's canon.

    JULY 20, 2001

    Reader comments on The Deep End:

  • the deep end   from robbie, Jan 29, 2002
  • goran visnjic   from Jen, Apr 14, 2003
  • deep end movie   from sandy, Aug 2, 2005
  • Jonathan tucker   from Amber, Mar 7, 2006
  • Can Somebody Explain   from Linda, Jun 19, 2007
  • Hard to understand the theme   from Sourabh, Sep 16, 2009

  • Post a comment on "The Deep End"