Some people like falling asleep to the sounds of ocean waves and flowing water, I personally love the idea of falling asleep to Deep Water – a complete bore of an erotic thriller that’s hardly erotic nor thrilling. The narrative follows Vic (Ben Affleck), a boring, expressionless husband, and his wife Melinda (Ana De Armas), who is consistently having affairs with men who seem to go missing.
From the outset, it’s very clear what this film is desperately trying to be. Similar to the likes of Gone Girl (2014), every single shot is composed of flat greys, deep blues and blacks to evoke a very dark and ominous tone. Not only is it a lazy way to impose such a tone, feeling forced from the very opening shot, but it makes every scene dull and boring to look at. Don’t get me wrong – great films have used similar colour palettes successfully, but they’re typically built off the backs of an interesting story and compelling characters. As this film has neither of those elements, it results in a gloomy aesthetic that’s just depressing to sit through. I feel the blame of this misfire comes down to director Adrian Lyne’s approach. Yes, he directed the likes of Indecent Proposal (1993) and Fatal Attraction (1987), but he seems to have lost touch with what makes a compelling erotic thriller. Either that or the genre as a whole has just seen better days.
It takes around 40 minutes or so to really get a grasp on what exactly the story is about. The first act spends so much time setting up the toxic dynamic between Vic and Melinda, that it doesn’t establish what the hook is. This entire act had me wondering why I’m watching and what exactly I’m sticking around for. The most disappointing part is that once the thriller element does begin to weave into the story, and the overall ‘point’ is clear, it’s still not that engaging. The slow, drudging pace is intentional, designed to enhance the sense of ‘mystery’, but it just makes getting through almost every scene a chore. It’s less tense than it is just straight-up boring. Now I must give credit where it’s due – there’s a small handful of scenes where there’s actually some solid tension, providing two or three moments that had me somewhat interested in how things would develop. All of these moments are short lived and disappear into the black hole of mundanity that is every other minute of this movie.
Even when you look at the performances, they’re either severely lacking or just unable to do enough to salvage this horrid narrative. Ben Affleck mopes around through this entire film with few lines of dialogue breaking up long stretches of him just staring blankly at the scenes around him. There’s some moments where you can see some thought behind his eyes, but for the most part he’s an uninteresting co-lead. Now, I understand that his character is very monotone by design, so it’s hard to discern how much is the character vs his actual performance, but the combination of both just doesn’t work. Ana De Armas is a bundle of charisma and charm in every single one of her projects. She typically lights up the screen whenever she shows up, and she does her best here to salvage this project. Out of everything and everyone in this film, she’s the strongest part, but even then it’s not enough to get any genuine enjoyment out of what’s happening.
Another narrative issue I need to touch on is the confusing nature of Vic and Melinda’s relationship. Despite the amount of time they spend setting it up, I could never quite grasp the vibe. They’re married, with no sign of getting a divorce, and Melinda is constantly having affairs with other men while Vic knowingly watches. This confusion carried through the entire film and made it pretty hard to ever become locked in to their story. I got to the point where I could grasp Melinda’s desires and the reasoning behind her actions, but I never understood Vic’s character.
In the end, Deep Water fails at delivering the fundamental elements of an erotic thriller. It’s a meandering mess that wanders through its main story beats with such little urgency that it’s borderline sleep-inducing. With the only redeeming quality being Ana De Armas’ charisma bringing some life to the film, there’s not a lot of value to get out of this two-hour slog. The bland and tonally flat visuals mean you can’t even admire the beauty of what you’re looking at – it’s rather depressing. There’s a very niche audience who may somehow get some below the line enjoyment out of this, but for the vast majority this is something to avoid at all costs.