One man dominated the niche genre of the erotic thriller throughout the 80’s and 90’s. Fatal Attraction, 9 1/2 Weeks, and Indecent Proposal are prime examples of filmmaker Adrian Lyne’s use of sexual urges and murderous intentions within his craft. He excelled at it. So much so, that he received a Best Director nomination at the 1988 Academy Awards for Fatal Attraction. Yet, following 2002’s Unfaithful, there was a twenty year gap in the director’s filmography. That’s about to change with the Hulu release of Deep Water.
Vic (Ben Affleck) and Melinda (Ana de Armas) are a married couple whose rocky relationship is on the verge of crumbling. Vic is retired. He spends his days mountain biking and playing with their young daughter. However, Melinda has grown bored and chases excitement in the arms of other men. She doesn’t try to hide it, either. She toys with Vic; taunting him by dangling her many suitors in front of his face and challenging him to do something about it. It all spirals into a battle of psychological warfare that takes both them to very dark places.
Deep Water is the exact movie you would expect from Adrien Lyne. After a hiatus of two decades, the filmmaker slides right back into his comfort zone with a story that mixes sex and tension in the manner he’s mastered. Ana de Armas (Knives Out) plays the role of the scheming seductress with an effortless confidence that few possess. She played a similar role in Eli Roth’s Knock Knock; although the over the top campiness of that film didn’t allow her to showcase her true acting chops. Her energy and magnetism are countered by Affleck’s stoic performance. As a husband pushed to his breaking point, he is calm and composed. He’s in control, but that control is being threatened and there’s a rage boiling just beneath the surface. This imbalance within the relationship is where the tension brews.
The story plays out like a Lifetime original movie. Only there’s a bigger budget, better production and a larger dose of sex and violence. I don’t mean that as an insult against the film. In fact, I think it works to its benefit. Deep Water takes itself incredibly seriously, despite more than a few silly moments. It unfolds with a melodramatic sensibility. Conversations are deep. There’s mistrust, betrayal and a looming sense that something bad is coming.
Affleck and de Armas were romantically linked in real life for a short time, and that real life connection carries over into the film. Despite the two characters’ growing resentment towards one another, there is a sense of comfortability and, at moments, glimpses to the spark that they once had. This movie isn’t going to break any new ground. It won’t likely be anybody’s favorite film of the year. However, it is a welcomed return from Adrian Lyne to the genre that he once dominated. Deep Water explores what happens when a relationship fueled by fire, burns out. And how far someone will go to maintain the love that was once there. 7/10