After a 20 year sabbatical from directing, the great Adrian Lyne returns with a film which sits very nicely within his wheelhouse. Fitting nicely beside the likes of Fatal Attraction, Indecent Proposal and Unfaithful, Deep Water gives Lyne yet another opportunity to examine the institute of marriage through his own particular microscope. Using Patricia Highsmith’s 1957 of the same name, Deep Water walks a fine line between domestic drama and psychological thriller, anchored by strong performances from Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas.
Affleck and de Armas play Vic and Melinda Van Allen, an affluent couple with what appears to be an ideal existence. However, underneath the glossy veneer lies the fact that Melinda has a series of partners outside of her marriage and that Vic accepts this without fault. Their relationship starts to strain when Vic begins to resent his wife’s extra-marital activities – and then some of Melinda’s boyfriends start to die.
Subtle and loosely played, Deep Water won’t work for everyone, but if you’re willing to go with its relaxed plotting then you’re in for an enjoyable time at the movies. As a director, Lyne understands this sort of material and he seems more interested in the martial discord angle than the thriller dimension. There’s nothing wrong with that because the film works so well as a dramatic piece. The thriller element almost feels like an additional add-on – it’s fun but not wholly essential.
The relationship between Affleck’s Vic and de Armas’ Melinda is fascinating to watch – even though you have to wonder why he has suffered it for so long. It’s perfectly acted by the pair as they play around with noir character archetypes. Affleck is the everyman who is caught-up in something that he doesn’t fully understand (although he believes he does) and de Armas is the femme fatale who leads him out of his depth (and into Deep Water?).
Coming off a small but scene stealing turn in the James Bond film No Time To Die, de Armas impresses as the self-centred wife and mother who lives the life of a singleton who only drifts through her domestic life when it seems to suit her.
Affleck has continued to grow as a performer and his recent work in The Way Back, The Last Duel and The Tender Bar show that he’s delivering career best work – and Deep Water continues this run. It’s a subtle turn which is all about the internal rather than the external. It’s a film which is a very interesting companion piece to Affleck’s other perils of marriage thriller, Gone Girl.
Slow-burning, Deep Water is an intriguing little thriller which is a throwback to the type of film Hollywood used to frequently turn-out in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s a performance driven potboiler which unveils its plot at its own pace. If you’re in the mood for an expertly produced retro domestic thriller then Deep Water is the movie for you.