Deep Water


‘…Deep Water is a tense and involving thriller that adapts Highsmith’s intense storytelling to the modern world with some style…’

Deep Water is an erotic thriller that finally arrives on streaming via Prime in the UK (Hulu in the US) this Friday; there’s a number of reasons to anticipate this much delayed film, originally developed by Fox before they were taken over by Disney. The original novel Deep Water is one of the less heralded works by the great Patricia Highsmith, an undisputed champ of thriller writing through Strangers on a Train to The Talented Mr Ripley. And the director is Adrian Lyne, ideally suited to the author’s focus on sexual obsession and jealousy from his own considerable canon (Nine and a Half Weeks, Indecent Proposal, Lolita, Unfaithful), with a catnip-to-the-masses cast which matches Ben Affleck with Ana de Armas, the breakout star of the last Bond film.

A subtle flash-forward aside, we open on suburban couple Vic Van Allen (Affleck) and his wife Melinda (de Armas), who may have fallen out of love, but haven’t stopped playing games with each other. In a supposedly open relationship, Melinda takes lovers, who have an uncanny knack of vanishing; Vic likes to boast that he’s killed them, but bodies are not found. Vic’s thoughtless boast arouses some interest, notably from aspiring screenwriter Lionel Washington (Tracy Letts), but just who’s zoomin’ who? Does Vic’s professional work with drones suggest that’s he’s actually an immoral killer, or is the devious Melinda playing him? And what’s with Vic’s collection of snails?

Don’t look to the book for the ending, as Deep Water doesn’t quite adhere to Highsmith’s firmly downbeat punch-line, although it transfers most of the twists intact. A low-key Affleck enjoys playing up to a similar masculine ambiguity that worked so well in the first half of David Fincher’s Gone Girl, and de Armas is persuasive as a genuine femme fatale who may or may not be aware of what potential danger she’s engendering; in this instance, it’s relevant that she’s old enough to be his daughter. They’re a good-looking couple, although if you scrape away the glamour, their souls are as dark and dank as the bottom of a snail’s terrarium.

The perennially under-rated Lyne has always been a great craftsman whose movies have an iconic power; Flashdance, Fatal Attraction and Jacob’s Ladder were all ground-breaking films which defined their own genres, even if critics carped that his films offered style rather than substance. That’s never been true, Lyne has always brought considerable depth to his work, and although the old-school plotting and focus on infidelity might seem a little quaint by today’s standards, Deep Water is a tense and involving thriller that adapts Highsmith’s intense brand of storytelling to the modern world with some style.




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  1. Did you catch the ‘Adapting Highsmith’ UK tour in 2016? The original 1981 French version of Deep Water transferred the story to Jersey and starred Jean-Louis Trintignant and a young Isabelle Huppert. Highsmith adaptations were popular in France and Germany in the 1980s. I don’t think Highsmith adaptations were actually directed by Americans until very recently. Lyne, like Hitchcock is English working in the US. Highsmith was not really appreciated in the US at all in her lifetime.

    • Good point; my friend Jack worked with Highsmith on her South Bank Show, and Minghella did a good job on Ripley, so maybe it is a European and/or British thing. I’ll have to dig out the French version…

  2. This one’s a maybe for me, don’t mind Affleck, don’t mind Lynn, it just all sounds a bit tawdry and derivative, even if it’s stylishly done. I’d just be yelling at the screen for them to get over themselves and get a divorce for heavens sakes. Still, a maybe.

  3. Four decades a Lyne-lover is some commitment. No relation to lyne-dancing I’m assuming. why the heck is this not on the big screen. Affleck has got to still have box office appeal and de armas is definitely a break-out star but Lyne’s first film in what two decades. Why did he stop? What did he do instead?

    • My guess is like Turning Red; there’s a new lack of confidence in audiences being there to buy tickets. You couldn’t ask for a hotter star than de Armas right now, everyone wants to see more of her post her Bond role. And Affleck is still a trigger-warning in a good way for several generations. And Lyne makes films, not streaming product. My guess Lyne has been in development hell; can’t see him making Captain America 5. This won’t please those looking for the next superhero movie, but it’s a fairly rigorous Highsmith adaptation that would have been a big screen draw in normal times.

    • I live in one, it’s a breath of fresh air after living in the septic tank.

      Thanks for the typos; it’s becoming apparent to me that I’m the only person who likes every film Lyne has made, but I’ve been at this for forty years and I’m not stopping now…

        • I get that wh was associated with the decade of flash, but films like Lolita and Jacob’s Ladder really moved him well beyond such nay-sayers; if not sure why critics HAVE to demonstrate that they’re down on anything with sexual content, but it’s always been the way.

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