Scott McGehee and David Siegel's second feature is essentially a modern-day version of the domestic film noir dramas of the 1950s, a genre that includes such classics as Michael Curtiz's Mildred Pierce and Max Ophuls' The Reckless Moment (which shares The Deep End's source material). Co-directors McGehee and Siegel know their stuff. Rather than resorting to action to produce thrills, they build suspense through the inner tension of the film's heroine, Margaret Hall (Tilda Swinton), as she tries to hold her family life together while fending off the gangsters who threaten to destroy it. The filmmakers also alter their source material by changing the heroine's daughter to a gay son (Jonathan Tucker) involved with an older man (Josh Lucas, whose brief, brutally seductive performance is one of the film's treats). Cinematographer Giles Nuttgens uses Lake Tahoe's crisp, cool light to bolster the atmosphere of tension and dread that underpins every scene: the light itself seems to harbor a haunting chill. The film suffers, however, from a not entirely successful attempt to update Elizabeth Sanxay Holding's novel. Ophuls injected The Reckless Moment with a proto-feminist subtext: James Mason's suave blackmailer takes pity on Joan Bennett's timid housewife precisely because her sheltered life seems so miserable to him. Swinton's efficient, multi-tasking, and thoroughly modern Margaret Hall, on the other hand, seems more than capable of taking care of herself while her husband is away at sea. The Deep End's blackmailer, Alek (Goran Visnjic), just seems to crumble in the face of her assertiveness. Ironically, Swinton's justly praised performance actually works against the film's premise. Alek, and his even less menacing boss Carlie Nagle (Raymond Barry), are just no match for Margaret when it comes to getting the job done.
by Tom Vick review