We’ve seen it all before in our respective little lives as well as shows, novels, and even reality television…when the sex is great, everything else that matters can fall by the wayside, including common sense and decency. The act of sexual congress is by far one of the most amazing and dangerous acts we as human beings can give to each other, and the cinematic features that utilizes that very action as a means of various emotional, physical expression, and thematicism has always been equal parts fascinating and informative. The sub-genre of erotic drama/thrillers has certainly seen some doozies back in the day, most of them with director Adrian Lyne’s name written all over them. Entries like 9 1/2 weeks (1986), Indecent Proposal (1993), and Unfaithful (2002). And after a twenty year hiatus, he’s back behind the camera for this new feature that’s also a greatest hits tribute to his tantalizing filmography, crafting an eccentric walk down the path of a horrendous relationship. One that can remind others of ones they’ve been apart of if the case may be. Deep Water (2022) is a sexy, yet heavily tense and damaged exercise in what it means to be in a relationship that transmogrifies into an entirely different beast altogether.
As the story goes, Married couple Vic (Ben Affleck) and Melinda Van Allen (Ana De Armas) couldn’t have a more perfect existence. They’re rich, popular, and have a beautiful baby girl, Trixie (Gracie Jenkins). But naturally on the surface as well as deep within their relationship, Vic and Melinda are far from normal people. For starters, she’s a serial cheater who delights in flaunting her friends in front of her well-to-do husband and their coupled friends as well. She’s also aloof, conniving, and an alcoholic. And as for him, he’s simply so in love or infatuated with his wife, that he allows this to happen, shakily content on carrying their fractured relationship on his own, despite the fact that her ways are killing him on the inside. (Or he’s been dead on the inside for years anyway) Soon, as secrets, infidelity, and obsession grows, this marriage reaches a boiling point and undeniable truths come out from both parties, as everyone around them gets sucked into their dangerous, venomous web. Plenty of sex, oddities, and toxicity ensues.
Right off the bat, it should be noted that this feature’s aesthetics and tones are extremely different from the norm. There’s quite a few deep hues and thick colors that stand out in various parts that emphasize certain moments and even a graininess mixed with central framing. Considering what transpires during its runtime, this is a expertly well shot film in many regards. As stated before this is Lyne’s greatest hits coming together so another of those hits is the slow but sporadically punchy editing. Some scenes have a flow to them while others start and end way too fast. And of course if you’re a fan you’ll see a few more of his trademarks like animals, jazzy music, parties, and of course, water. Water is a huge part of this film and a choice that fully encapsulates the themes associated with this story. For better or worse. Lyne’s most celebrated, analyzed, and famous film, Fatal Attraction (1987), is definitely an influence as well, especially with the psychological aspects of these characters.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much else to positively reflect on after that because this is an odd story, or at this stage it is. The argument could be made that at this point in Vic and Melinda’s relationship, there isn’t any love remaining between them, just different forms of control and poison. As a result, they’re devoid of anything that makes them…well, human. And throughout the film you’re witnessed to that incessantly, and those who are stupid enough to get sucked into their web of manipulations. A cycle that goes on and on because the both of them thrive on it. Most viewers aren’t going to connect with this in any kind of way unless they’ve been in toxic, fucked-up relationships themselves, and this is a reminder of how deeply soul-sucking it can become. And of course, there’s nothing about Vic and Melinda as people to grab onto, and that’s where the story truly falters. Since minute one, we’re dropped right in the middle of this. There wasn’t any scenes beforehand or even during the film that establishes any sort of love, intimacy, or connection between them. And because of that you’re left asking What drew them together initially? What was the spark that originally gave this relationship life? What was the moment where it all went wrong? How did it get to this point? Why did it get to this point? None of that was referenced or explored in any fashion, so as a whole, it all feels insufficient and incomplete, narratively speaking. What also suffers is the performances of Ben Affleck and Ana De Armas, because they weren’t given much to work with to balance out their roles. Not a smidge of character present beyond the marital warfare, emotional abuses, spitefulness, awkwardness, and infedelic transgressions. Granted, it is juicy as hell, but ultimately hallow and pedantic. They did have sexual chemistry, I guess, and some life in their scenes with young Jenkins. So there’s that at least.
Bottom line, Adrian Lyne’s return to thrilling and dramatic eroticism is a solid attempt but a complete stumble in what made these types of films such sulty and scandalous successes. I dare say, his absence after two decades is what also hindered this from knocking it out of the park. Man’s a bit rusty, but his directing style has been missed and deserves to be seen. It’s too damn good not to be. So hopefully he’ll try again because there’s plenty to explore in the destructive nature of dirty deeds in and out of the bedroom after all these years. Unfortunately this entry just wasn’t deep enough.
Review written by Marcus Wilturner