When you think noir, you think dark settings and darker motives... But while David Siegel and Scott McGehee's compelling thriller is based on the same novel as Max Ophüls' '49 The Reckless Moment - and very much belongs to the same genre - The Deep End is far brighter than you'd expect.
Not in terms of the action or atmosphere, of course - it's still a tale of murder, blackmail and familial tension. But the Lake Tahoe setting, with the azure waters a near-constant backdrop, gives the film a fresher feel than most of its recent counterparts.
Unsurprisingly, given the title and setting, water plays a major part in the plot and imagery. Bodies are lost in the Lake, spilled water becomes a symbol for the presence of physical threat, and we often view characters through their distorted reflections - most impressively in a shot where we see Margaret entering her home via her reflection in a swelling tap drip.
Such visual inventiveness is bolstered by excellent turns from Swinton and ER's Goran Visnjic, as victim and blackmailer respectively. Swinton, in particular, is great as the fortysomething mother dealing with her deadly predicament in the same practical, task-juggling manner as she deals with her everyday chores.
Indeed, Margaret's response to extortion flummoxes her blackmailers, and it's Alek's (Visnjic) reaction to her which dominates the second half of the movie. Visnjic balances charm with menace and handles potentially jarring character developments with genuine skill.
The result makes you look forward to Visnjic's future cinematic forays and wish that Siegel and McGehee, whose last outing was `93's little-seen Suture, would make movies more often.
An atmospheric and expectation-defying thriller. Directors David Siegel and Scott McGehee prove their aptitude for building suspense in unlikely settings, and wring storming performances from both Goran Visnjic and Tilda Swinton.
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