VOD film review: Deep Water
Affleck and de Armas8
Matthew Turner | On 18, Mar 2022
Director: Adrian Lyne
Cast: Ben Affleck, Ana de Armas, Tracy Letts
Director Adrian Lyne can rightfully be considered the Godfather of the erotic thriller, having been responsible for several of the key examples of the genre, from 9 ½ Weeks and Fatal Attraction in the 1980s through to to Indecent Proposal in 1993 and Unfaithful in 2002. Now, after a 20 year absence, Lyne is back, with a steamy, starry tale of marriage and murder that harks back to the classic era of the erotic thriller while simultaneously finding new angles that feel modern.
Based on a 1957 novel by Patricia Highsmith and set in present-day New Orleans, the film stars Ben Affleck as Vic Van Allen, a wealthy husband whose younger wife, Melinda (Ana de Armas), seems to get off on flaunting her new lovers at the seemingly endless round of parties held by their similarly well-to-do friends. At one such party, Vic scares off Melinda’s latest conquest, Joel (Brendan Miller), by casually telling him that he killed her previous lover – and when everyone finds out, he passes it off as a joke.
However, that doesn’t stop Melinda, who quickly picks up another lover (Jacob Elordi) and then, when he also turns up dead, replaces him with yet another (Finn Wittrock). But is Vic really capable of murder? Or is this all a part of some twisted game they’re playing?
Lyne drenches the film in intriguing ambiguity, not just over whether Vic is a stone-cold killer, but also over the exact nature of Vic and Melinda’s marriage. Is Vic also getting off on being cuckolded? Their “understanding” is not explicitly stated, leaving the audience to try and piece it together for themselves, and that becomes part of the fun, not least because their behaviour seems so contradictory. At first it seems like Melinda has fallen out of love with Vic after giving him a child, but it’s clear that they do still have passionate sex, even if it needs to be kick-started with jealousy.
The performances are perfectly attuned to that ambiguity. Affleck, in particular, is terrific as Vic, investing him with an implacable stillness that’s genuinely unsettling. There’s an amusing weirdness about him too – illustrated by the fact that he keeps snails (providing a poorly-defined metaphor of some kind) and shows more emotion when one of Melinda’s lovers suggests eating them than he does over her infidelities.
De Armas (who was in a relationship with Affleck at the time of filming) is equally good as Melinda, delivering the sort of performance that makes it plausible that someone might want to kill for her. Her slinky sensuality is given a significant boost by some sensational costume work, including an array of backless black dresses that become increasingly revealing.
In fairness, the film isn’t entirely without flaws. For one thing, it’s been the victim of some pretty heavy-handed editing – Rachel Blanchard’s character gets a single line (which makes it seem like she’ll be important to the story), then disappears, and there are also clearly some missing scenes involving Don (Tracy Letts), a friend who becomes increasingly suspicious of Vic, to the point of hiring a private detective. There are also a couple of (presumably unintentional) laughable moments, although that’s part of the fun and entirely in keeping with the genre’s history. But the depiction of the central relationship feels original, certainly not something we’re used to seeing in mainstream cinema.
Deep Water is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.