Tue. Sep 22nd, 2020

Retro Review: ‘The Deep End’ (2001)

A mother’s work is never done. In fact, what does a mom do all day? Well, if you’re Margaret Hall in The Deep End, between shutting the kids to soccer practice and taking care of her ailing father-in-law, she deflects the threats of blackmailers (The Peacemaker‘s Goran Visnjic) while trying to protect her gay son from being charged with murder in the death of his rough and tumble boyfriend. And you thought your mom had it rough.

Based on the novel “The Black Wall,” by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding (and also the basis for Max Ophüls’s 1949 film noir The Reckless Moment), The Deep End is a gorgeous, atmospheric and fantastic dramatic thriller by San Francisco’s Scott McGee and David Siegel. It’s classic melodrama, up there with the women’s pictures of the 1940s like Mildred Pierce, where sacrificing mothers give everything they have for their sometimes less than grateful offspring. Tilda Swinton (in a performance that should have garnered her an Oscar nomination) plays said mother of the teenage Beau (Jonathan Tucker). When Margaret discovers that Beau has been seeing an older man, Darby Reese (played with rakish oiliness by Josh Lucas), she drives to the bar where he frequents, determined to get him to stop seeing her son. He offers to back off for $5000, which confirms her instincts that he’s not the best guy for her son.

After a late night visit to Beau by Darby, the two fight, resulting in a fatal accident. When Margaret discovers this, her first and only instinct is to protect her son – at all costs.

One of the great things about films like this is that it understands the circumstances it puts its unlikely heroine in are outlandish and yet rooted in deep truth and realistic actions by its characters. The cinematography (also Oscar-worthy) is breathtaking and Lake Tahoe has never looked more serene and sinister at the same time.

How to watch: The Deep End is available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime

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