Directed by: Adrian Lyne
Premise: Based on the book by Patricia Highsmith. A messy housewife (Ana de Armas) publicly carries on affairs but her lovers frequently turn up dead under mysterious circumstances. Her husband (Ben Affleck) is the chief suspect.
What Works: Deep Water is at its best when it focuses on the domestic and sexual tension between the husband and wife played by Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas. The husband claims to be accepting of her cavorting behavior while clearly upset by it and the film hints that the wife’s behavior is partly her attempt to get a rise out of her husband that he never delivers, at least not in a way that she’s expecting. Affleck and de Armas play up the subtext of their scenes and there are tense moments between them that play as scenes from a credible marriage.
What Doesn’t: Deep Water is intended to be a thriller and that is where the movie goes wrong. The story is devoid of tension. Ben Affleck’s character is very obviously murdering his wife’s lovers and there is no ambiguity to what he is doing or why. Too much is revealed too early and much of Deep Water is at a standstill. The story isn’t escalating or working toward a reveal or a crisis. Even the status of the marriage remains relatively flat throughout the film. The husband and wife are unhappy at the beginning and they are still unhappy at the end. The domestic moments between the couple are interesting but the various scenes don’t form a meaningful whole. We don’t know anything more about these people at the end of the movie than we did within the first fifteen minutes. The wife remains one dimensional and if the filmmakers are trying to put us on the side of the husband, like Norman Bates in Psycho, it isn’t working. Affleck’s character is sympathetic because he’s trapped in an asymmetrical relationship but the murders eliminate any chance for empathy. There’s little reason to care if the husband gets away with murder or not because there are no stakes. It’s clear that the husband is never going to hurt his wife and so the movie becomes a repetitive series of murders that aren’t even carried out very well. In at least once case it is incredulous that no one realizes the husband’s guilt. Deep Water also suffers from clumsy editing, especially between scenes. The transitions are abrupt and a few scenes do not logically lead to the next.
Bottom Line: Deep Water is a disappointing erotic thriller. The film doesn’t offer any mystery or excitement and as a portrait of a troubled marriage Deep Water is mostly shallow.
Episode: #896 (April 3, 2022)