ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  s mcgehee, d siegel

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  drama

LENGTH  -  100 minutes

RELEASED  -  8 august 2001

DISTRIBUTOR  -  20th century fox

OFFICIAL SITE  -  the deep end

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $3,000,000
the deep end - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from the deep end at

buy the dvd from the deep end at

a woman spirals out of control while trying to keep her son from being found culpable in a murder investigation.

both directors cameo as the ambulance attendants that arrive to pick up jack.


picture from the deep end

picture from the deep end

picture from the deep end


three out of four possible stars

The Deep End is sometimes a deep movie, and is always an engrossing film, and has some of the best performances in recent memory. The story is presented as a thriller and there is a sense of immediacy that permeates the entire film. It takes place over the course of only forty-eight hours or so, and the aspect of the "ticking clock" makes it easy for audience members to sit on the edges of their seats. And Tilda Swinton adds much to the many emotional scenes her character has to wade through. She seems to be a master of the type of scene where one character is in turmoil, but everyone around her is dealing with nothing but their boring, normal lives.

Tilda can tell the audience a lot with just her eyes and sometimes, as in on of the first scenes she has with bad guy Goran Visnjic. Both Tilda and Goran make convincing cases as their characters and Goran, in particular, has the rare ability to make his character, who is the torment of Tilda's for much of the movie, a seemingly likeable guy. Not in the sense that it would be easy to invite the guy over for tea, but in that his problems matter too. In that regard, this is a multi-sided movie whose focus is mainly on Tilda, but is seen from other points of view as well.

That aspect is a good one, given that this is such a character driven film. The story for the movie is one of its most interesting aspects. Taken from a novel written over half a century ago by Elisabeth Sanxay, the story of the main character, a woman whose paramount concern is in hiding her son's possible involvement with a local murder from the police, makes Tilda's character look as if she just stepped out of a movie from the 1940's. If not for the gender change of her child (in the book, the child is a straight girl, in this film, the child is a gay boy), Tilda's character could very much resemble a housewife without the trappings of twenty-first century living.

But what is successful about the film is that the screenwriters, who also directed the picture, made this movie seem right at home in 2001. Yes, Margaret Hall, Tilda's character, is a housewife, but she's not meek and she's dealing with life almost like a single mother, with her husband in the military and away on some boat in the North Sea. What is more interesting about her character is the way she deals with her familial devotion. She takes charge of her situation and the relationship she has in the beginning of the movie with her son, played by Jonathan Tucker, which seems to tread on thin ice, is completely transformed by the end. If ever a character driven film was able to show real emotional change in a character, this film accomplished that.

One of the only failings in the film has nothing to do with the characters. It has to do with the house the Hall family lives in. It's a gigantic lakefront house on the shores of Lake Tahoe. Now, any one of these residences would cost millions of dollars, and it's a leap of faith to believe that Tilda's character has to go through so much trouble to find money to give to Goran's blackmailing character. And in point of fact, there is a quite in depth sequence where Margaret looks through all of her checking accounts, credit cards, and even tries to mortgage her house. The filmmakers alleviate this problem somewhat by making sure none of the Hall family members has a decent car to run around in. At one point, one of the cars even breaks down.

But this flaw is something that only the members not caught up in the performances of the characters would notice. And really, this film sucks the audience in with its first scene and is off and running toward the credits. It moves along at a brisk pace, never stalling with superfluous scenes or dialogue. Every single scene has a purpose and all the dialogue moves the story forward. This film is fortunate in that it is able to string an engrossing story together, but also showcase its actors. The filmmakers sacrificed neither commodity in creating this film and because it moves so easily, it is also a very enjoyable film.

And that is what the entire experience boils down to. An expertly made thriller with good performances to boot. The filmmakers got the tricky combination of casting and story right and ended up with a rare experience in the theaters. The cinematographer should be mentioned also for the very natural look of the picture. Although the film had a relatively low budget, it is still a polished film, with many of the indoor sequences having been shot while there was snow on the ground outside. And what is remarkable about this is that it never seems to be anything but summer in any of the shots. The Deep End is a great film all around that is entertaining and well made, which is probably something of a rarity in feature films.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

content 2000 - - ninth symphony films - photographs 20th century fox 2001
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