Credit: 20th Century Studios
by Matt Lynch Featured Film Streaming Scene

Deep Water — Adrian Lyne

March 16, 2022

Deep Water is an erotic thriller that’s neither particularly erotic nor thrilling.

Those hoping for a horny throwback to the now-considered-classic erotic thrillers of the ’80s and ’90s, or a return to form for their maestro Adrian Lyne, are probably in for a bit of a disappointment with Deep Water. Based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith and freighted with the tantalizing casting of one-time IRL couple Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas, it’s unfortunately — but by design — both not particularly erotic nor particularly thrilling. It’s actually shooting for more of a dark romantic drama; but on the other hand, that ain’t any kind of fun.

Affleck and de Armas play married couple Vic and Melinda Van Allen. Rich from Vic’s tech business — he builds chips that go into military drones, the ethics of which do not concern him at all — and possibly a little bored, they seem to have lush life of leisure. Also, Vic lets Melinda have affairs to avoid their marriage crumbling into divorce. When one of Melinda’s partners goes missing, Vic has a little fun by telling some folks that he killed the guy, which turns out not to be true, but when he uncovers Melinda’s latest fling, he actually does the deed, surreptitiously drowning the dude in a pool in the middle of a dinner party. Melinda is suspicious, but nobody actually saw anything, and it’s counted as an accident.

As alleged erotic thrillers go, Deep Water doesn’t seem interested in sex scenes. The ones we get are very brief, although de Armas is plenty naked, so the lech factor is a check. But Melinda’s trysts are mostly suggested. Most of the sex we do see is between Melinda and Vic, and it has the slightly dull desperation of a long relationship. Much more fascinating is its framing of Melinda’s affairs, and Vic’s acceptance of them, as more of a kink than anything else — at least initially. There’s little doubt that these two characters love each other, and that the way she flaunts her infidelities is entirely part of the turn on for Vic. Conversely, he claims he simply “doesn’t want to control” Melinda, but the glib way he brags at first about the murder he didn’t commit, and the clear pleasure he takes in his actual criminal plans, both belie the jealousy that’s straining the relationship.

As for the thriller half of the genre, it only rears its head in the final 30 minutes or so, late to the party to the degree that Deep Water only barely even becomes one, with a frantic bit of suspense involving a potential double-cross and a local crime novelist convinced of Vic’s guilt. Also, crucially — and to its benefit — the film alters Highsmith’s ending to something a bit more darkly ambiguous. Formally, though, it’s nothing if not a work of Lyne’s. All high-toned bougie luxury porn, blown-out windows with billowing white curtains, every shot stuffed with gorgeous people and things. The whole film looks like a to-die-for magazine spread; nobody’s better at making infidelity look so delectable. But there’s just not enough sizzle on this steak. Lyne previously explored a lot of similar ideas in his last film (20 years ago!), Unfaithful, which incidentally had a lot more suspense and a lot more (and hotter) fucking.

You can stream Adrian Lyne’s Deep Water on Hulu beginning on March 18.