Director: Adrian Lyne
Starring: Ben Affleck, Ana de Armas, Tracy Letts, Grace Jenkins, Dash Mihok, Rachel Blanchard, Kristen Connolly, Jacob Elordi, Lil Rel Howery
Run Time: 115 mins
Deep Water is an erotic psychological thriller, directed by Adrian Lyne, his first film in twenty years. This genre is Lyne’s bread-and-butter, most famous for films such as Fatal Attraction, Lolita and Jacob’s Ladder, all of which feature sexually charged stories and characters.
The film is an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1957 novel of the same name and follows Vic and Melinda Van Allen (Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas), a couple in a loveless marriage. The two have an agreement that Melinda is allowed to have affairs with anyone she wants, as long as she does not desert Vic for the sake of their young daughter, Trixie (Grace Jenkins).
Their open marriage isn’t a well kept secret amongst their friends, although Vic grows increasingly tired and jealous of Melinda’s lovers. They are both led into a web of conspiracies following the death of one of Melinda’s partners, with Vic the obvious prime suspect.
Although Deep Water is a rather trashy affair, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable and pulpy ride. The film plays to Lyne’s directorial strengths and he’s able to capitalise on the spiky yet sensual relationship convincingly. Until the third act, the mystery is satisfying to witness unravel and it sustains its positively vicious tone throughout.
Affleck is no stranger to this type of role, with obvious comparisons to Gone Girl. Vic has a cynical outlook on life and can be cold and clinical at times, but he is also measured and has the closer relationship with his daughter compared to her mother. Melinda, on the other hand, has an erratic personality and revels in the pain she inflicts on Vic and isn’t particularly motherly towards her daughter. After excellent performances in Knives Out and No Time To Die, Ana de Armas continues to build her impressive career with her versatility, as her character is quite despicable.
Unfortunately, the film finds itself in fittingly deep water in its third act where it falls apart in its logic. Tracy Letts plays Don Wilson, a friend of the couple who is judgemental, in one scene outwardly questioning the moral ethics of the drone warfare that Vic has made his wealth from. It’s unnatural how uncommonly interested Wilson finds himself in Vic’s character and it’s impossible to take the character’s intentions seriously, which are particularly prevalent in the third act. There is also a borderline laughable chase between a car and a bicycle, worsened by choppy editing, that ends too narratively conveniently.
Whilst it’s perhaps easy to understand why critics haven’t taken particularly kindly to Deep Water, I found the film a guilty pleasure. The spiky relationship of the central duo are the thread that binds the narrative and the murder mystery elements are genuinely interesting, as a result of the convincing development of the couple. If you can get on board with its ludicrous premise, it makes for a thoroughly entertaining ride until it falls apart somewhat in its third act.