Deep Water (2022) Directed by Adrian Lyne
After 20 long years of waiting, the return to cinema of director Adrian Lyne is more than welcome, and as much as his comeback film may not be the ideal one to applaud his return I am left with the satisfaction of what he may be able to accomplish after this debacle. Having been cinematic silent for many years it was obvious that a filmmaker like Adrian Lyne would return with the most aggressive and outrageous attitude in terms of erotic filmmaking.
Deep Water is like a hybridization of two psychosexual films from Lyne’s filmography, Unfaithful (2002) and Fatal Attraction (1987), the result is more than a mess but still intriguingly ridiculous in a good way. To begin with the most brittle points of this failed film adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel of the same name would be to start with precisely the shoddy and incompetent screenwriting, which has no respect for or idea of how a psychological thriller works, much less the ability to discern the complexities of the novel.
Part of what makes a psychological drama so immersive and unpredictable comes precisely from the mental unpredictability of humans making decisions that will mark an irreversible determinism. You can clearly see that most of the excesses in the narrative don’t exactly come from Adrian Lyne’s direction, so I don’t see why many are looking for a criticism of his work on this film, there are times when simply a script is jarringly impossible to the point of making the entirety of a film a complete bummer.
The dull writing gives absolutely nothing for this production to get anything substantial out of it, let alone anything entertaining; the essential ingredients that made for example the psychological ambivalence of Unfaithful (2002) interesting and unsettling come from an intellectual genesis in the writing, and simultaneously Adrian Lyne brings to it a thriller dynamism that is flawed but highly incisive and unforgettable. Here he is prevented from giving a more intelligent approach to the drama because the script goes against the cognitive psychology that should be given to an erotic thriller of these characteristics, the writing prefers to go for an inert melodrama that has shades of psychoanalytical cinema but nothing more. The film presents without any development a catastrophic marriage, dependent and obsessive, sensual and lethal, with only that expressive dialectic could have done something intricately robust, yet the narrative is act after act an immutable echolalia.
Vic and Melinda Van Allen are a couple with a daughter living in the small town of Little Wesley, Louisiana. Their loveless marriage is held together only by a precarious arrangement whereby, to avoid the mess of divorce, Melinda is allowed to have any number of lovers as long as she does not abandon her family. Vic tells one of her lovers that she murdered her previous boyfriend. The story floats around her social group, which causes the lover to walk away and raises doubts about the truth of the story.
Similarly, just as I consider the biggest problem with this film to be the drowsy writing, the performances are impulsively bad, of course there are exceptions, Ana de Armas, who I believe is one of the most hypnotic and extraordinary actresses in contemporary cinema, gives the film plenty of oxygen to at least make the frustrating almost two-hour running time magnetic and sensitive. Negatively, the film ends in an entire state of acting imbalance whenever Ben Affleck speaks, moves, or just doesn’t do anything, his performance is pessimistically terrible, expressionless and so sleep-inducing that you can’t stand it.
With a film where the plot is especially restrained in the toxicity of a relationship, it is more than obvious that the film would need a great acting connection; here the interaction between actors that has strength and personality is nil. Affleck and Ana de Armas make up this manic marriage in which they live in a vicious circle something like a sexual game, which gives a dangerous and attractive atmosphere at the same time, however the lack of identity in the script and how it resolves the drama ends up being excessive, seeming more like a teenage sexual fantasy than an adult one. Deep Water is a redundant narrative that could have been deliciously erotic and genuinely terrifying, but unfortunately wastes the wit of the novel and the transcendent personality of the drama to drown the narrative in something facile, melodramatic, and forced. Unnecessarily lengthy and with nothing to say at that length, we just see a bunch of sensitive and insensitive bourgeois exposing their sexual problems, without ever delving into them. It is superficial cinema.
As much as a smooth and scrupulous execution might have provided momentary solid entertainment, I still stand firm that Adrian Lyne’s direction is not in itself the voluminous problem, the major flaw is in the writing and performances, which do nothing to sustain this insufferable form of filmmaking. I really hope Adrian Lyne keeps up a steady pace of filmmaking now that he is back, who knows maybe soon we will have the Adrian Lyne we knew before, but for now we can only wait.