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Fox Home Entertainment presents
The Deep End (2001)

"Perhaps I could be trying a little harder. Maybe sometime tomorrow between dropping Dylan at baseball practice and picking up my father-in-law from the hospital, I might find a way to try a little harder. Maybe I should take a page from your book: go to the track, find a card game. Maybe I should blackmail someone. Or maybe you have another idea. I mean, maybe you have a better idea of how I might try a little harder to find this $50,000 you've come here to steal from me."
- Margaret Hall (Tilda Swinton)

Review By: Brian Calhoun  
Published: April 08, 2002

Stars: Tilda Swinton, Goran Visnjic, Jonathan Tucker
Other Stars: Raymond Barry, Peter Donat, Josh Lucas
Director: Scott McGehee and David Siegel

Manufacturer: Panasonic Disc Services Corporation
MPAA Rating: R for some violence & language and for a strong sex scene
Run Time: 01h:40m:50s
Release Date: April 16, 2002
UPC: 024543031666
Genre: suspense thriller


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-B+A- B+

DVD Review

Mothers seem instinctive when it comes to taking care of their children. I do not believe there is a mother anywhere who would hesitate in sacrificing herself in order to ensure the safety of her offspring. But how far is too far? Are lies and felonies pushing the acceptable boundaries of one's maternal instincts to protect her young? The fascinating quandary of a mother willing to go to extreme lengths to protect her family is examined exquisitely in the remarkably pure thriller, The Deep End.

Margaret Hall (Tilda Swinton) is this quintessential mother. Her daily agenda includes driving the kids to and from school, encouraging her daughter through dance lessons, and caring for her father-in-law, Jack (Peter Donat). She must consistently be strong in raising her children due to the fact that her husband's job keeps him away at sea most of the time. One morning she stumbles upon the murdered body of Darby Reese (Josh Lucas), a smarmy Reno nightclub owner whom she knows to be dangerously involved with her eldest son Beau (Jonathan Tucker). Believing her son might very well be responsible for Darby's death, she unquestionably disposes of the body. Margaret's loyalty to her son is put to the ultimate test when the mysterious Alek Spera approaches her with a discriminating video tape involving Beau and the deceased. His motivation is that of simple bribery: "$50,000 tomorrow or there will be a copy with the Tahoe police." It is here where the audience truly sees how far a mother will go to protect the innocence of her children. The resulting events unfurl with an everyday quality that made me feel like they could happen right next door.

The screenplay is adapted from a story by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding titled The Blank Wall, which was also filmed in 1946 as The Reckless Moment. For The Deep End, writers/producers/directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel have modernized the elements quite admirably. Instead of a daughter caught up with an assertive older man, McGehee and Siegel have replaced this with the more shocking facet of a teenage boy dominated by his 30-year old gay lover. They have a fantastic way of focusing on the essence of this story, which is entirely about family, and more specifically, how a seemingly normal family reacts when they are put through abnormal circumatances. Every character has a quiet simplicity that makes it all the more realistic and harrowing when horrible events befall them. Margaret's devotion and loyalty is almost frightening, yet never did I feel that her questionable actions were not realistic. What mother wouldn't put herself through hell to protect her son.

Tilda Swinton's phenomenal performance is the film's greatest strength. It is an fascinating portrayal of motherhood that without doubt deserved an Oscar® nomination. Her realistic vocal inflections and endless facial expressions draw the viewer directly into her parental soul. Rarely have I seen an actress who can convey so much pathos and melancholy with such simple gestures. I could go on for days about her performance, but significant mention should also be made of Goran Visnjic. It is certainly Swinton's movie, but Visnjic might, in fact, have the most difficult role. As Alek, he must first come across as menacing and eventually win the audience over with his transformation into a compassionate and understanding human being. The method in which both Visnjic and the directors execute this change is masterful. I have never seen a scene quite like the one where Alek visits Margaret's house for the second time and is faced with such a black and white dilemma of morality. Both Swinton and Visnjic prove they know more than a few things about the subtleties of acting. There are many long passages in The Deep End without dialogue where they triumph in conveying their thoughts through facial expressions and body language.

Lately, suspense films have become so conventional that many of them are all too easy to predict. The Deep End does not avoid predictability altogether, but it does transcend routine thrillers by burrowing deep into the heart of its wholly unique yet strikingly ordinary characters. The slow pace may bore some viewers to tears, but I found this made it all the more natural. This is a subtle film that does not rely on jaw dropping twists or a gasp-inducing denouement. Quite the contrary, it focuses more on each individual moment rather than the sum of its parts, which is an effective approach that carefully held my attention every step of the way. Anyone who appreciates methodically crafted thrillers and tour de force performances will easily discover the many redeeming qualities of this underrated treasure.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The 2.35:1 anamorphic image transfer is pleasing, but does not compare to the stunning quality I have come to expect from recent 20th Century Fox transfers (I'll admit, they have spoiled me). Colors are vibrant and bold and flesh tones look natural. Black level is exemplary, yet contrast, at times, appears out of balance, resulting in muddy shadow detail during darker scenes. Aliasing is sometimes apparent in fine details, yet its presence is never bothersome. Grain is sometimes prevalent during pitch black scenes, such as the nighttime exterior shots of the Hall's Lake Tahoe home. Overall, the picture is not quite as sharp and crisp as one would hope for, but the general appearance is quite pleasing and free from any glaring deficiencies.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Enlgishyes


Audio Transfer Review: All of my expectations for the film's soundtrack were exceeded. While I was anticipating a generally subdued front-heavy mix, I was given a mix that creatively utilizes all the capabilities of a 5.1 soundtrack. Most impressive is the aggressive use of the surround channel. The rippling tones of water lapping against the shore, the rustling sounds of wind through the trees, and the eccentric noises of forest animals are all carefully placed amongst the wide soundstage, creating a remarkable sense of spatiality. Stereo separation always extends widely across the soundfield, further heightening the sense of realism. The musical score soars through all of the speakers in a way that transports the listener into the heart of the action. Deep bass is nearly non-existent for this primarily dialogue driven film, but its presence in the opening nightclub scene is clean and appropriately deep. While this mix is not necessarily considered knock-your-socks-off demo material, it is highly praise-worthy for its ability to decoratively color the film without undermining the effectiveness of the storytelling.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Sexy Beast, Boys Don't Cry, Stealing Beauty, Quills
1 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Writers/producers/directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:51m:24s

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: The Deep End features a nice collection of special features that elaborate on the film in addition to honoring it. First is the feature-length commentary with writers/producers/directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel. They are articulate, yet I found myself bumping up the volume a few notches in order to hear their soft speaking voices. The debate over shooting 2.35:1, the creative ways of working around budgetary constraints, and the joys of working as a directing team are some of the interesting tidbits learned. The gamut of filmmaking is discussed, including editing, acting, and cinematography, but there is an unfortunate lack of focus on the film's fascinating story. While this is a good commentary track, I ultimately found myself more intrigued with watching the film again rather than listening to what they had to say.

Next up is the Sundance Channel documentary, The Anatomy of a Scene. Here we find the filmmakers dissecting a crucial scene between Goran Visnjic and Tilda Swinton. Everything about the careful construction of this scene is discussed; from lighting, to acting, to music, to editing, it is all covered. This is a fantastic documentary that heightened my already high appreciation for the film.

The three-minute featurette is essentially a recap of the movie's plot, and could almost be considered an interview version of a theatrical trailer. While this may seem redundant, it is interesting to hear Tilda Swinton offer her viewpoint on the film. Additionally, hearing her speak in her natural British accent made me admire her performance as Margaret even more.

Both the theatrical trailer and the TV spot are nonanamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen. The two trailers are very similar in content with the TV spot running quite a bit shorter. Both feature very good image quality and excerpts of praise from various critics.

For those who enjoy photo galleries, The Deep End features a lengthy section of behind-the-scenes and still photos from the film. Personally, if I wanted to see still images from the film I would simply play the main feature and press pause. However, there are some beautiful photos of the Lake Tahoe house covered with snow, which are never seen in the finished film.

The last icon within the special features section is Fox Flix. Here the viewer can find one full-frame and three anamorphic widescreen trailers for four other 20th Century Fox films. I am sure many viewers love to have their DVDs stuffed to the gills, but I am not one that appreciates random trailers.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

The Deep End is one of the most overlooked films of 2001. Forget special features, forget mind-blowing audio and video, and purchase this DVD for the wonderful film itself.

 


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