Adrian Lyne’s films have always explored the dynamic in male-female relationships. Why do people in happy marriages suddenly cheat? Can the relationship survive the fall-out of such indiscretions? It’s no surprise then that he’s taken on Patricia Highsmith’s Deep Water, a novel about a suburban marriage riddled with affairs and secrets. The film stars Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas, who play married couple Vic and Melinda. The pair have a young daughter together, and because of Vic’s computer chip invention, neither of them have to work to upkeep their lavish lifestyle. It’s something akin to The Great Gatsby, but in the suburbs, where the couple spend most of their days attending party after party.
Melinda’s vivacious and outgoing, and Vic’s quieter, more reserved. It’s not in Melinda’s nature to play the obedient, submissive housewife – she wants to have fun, and sometimes this involves entertaining certain gentleman callers. She calls them friends, but it doesn’t feel so innocent, especially when we see her kissing one of them full on the mouth. These affairs are not quiet, and are conducted in full view of Vic and their friends. Said friends keep warning Vic about Melinda’s behaviour, but he defends his wife and dismisses their concerns.
On the surface, Vic keeps up this neutral ‘I don’t care’ demeanour, but we see the way his eyes follow her and her beau of the hour at every party, his mind tormented by the private things they might have got up to away from his sight. Lyne gives us frequent close-up shots of Vic as he goes on his early morning bike rides, so we can see his conflict up close, and how much he’s bothered by his wife’s affairs.
So why does he stay with her? After all, maybe it would be easier to walk away for some peace of mind, instead of trying to track all his wife’s movements like a mad man. But you see, he can’t leave her, he loves her too much to walk away from her – an obsessive, all-consuming type of love. And Melinda, in her own messed up way, loves him too. Armas communicates this clearly with her eyes, with many a loving gaze bestowed on Affleck’s Vic. To add on to the bizarre mind games she plays, Melinda likes to frequently invite these paramours back to her own home for dinner. This incites further sympathy for Vic, who has to play nice and be hospitable when the guest has done god knows what with his wife.
During some solo time with one of his wife’s gentleman callers, Vic brings up another friend of Melinda’s, who went missing, and flat out says that he murdered the man. He says it lightly, almost jokingly, yet there’s an air of intimidation that surrounds him, and Affleck so effortlessly slips between the friendly mask and the deeper anger he feels. His performance here is reminiscent of his role in Gone Girl, so normal and unassuming, a regular guy shoved into a situation beyond his control.
This nugget of information he doled out sets everyone’s tongues wagging, and on our part, we’re not sure if he did murder the man or not. The fantastic thing about Deep Water is that you don’t want to believe he’s a murderer, because we’ve sympathized with him so much in this film.
He’s a good father, so patient and loving with his daughter, and he’s the same with Melinda. In all his confrontations with her, he never becomes violent, always keeping his cool even in the midst of his anger. But you see, there is no lid for rage like that – eventually it spills over. This is the cost of playing dangerous games in love.
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We've moved away from adult thrillers in recent years, so it's great to have Lyne back with a film that isn't afraid to show the messy side of love and people.
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