First published in 1957, acclaimed author Patricia Highsmith’s novel “Deep Water” has been adapted for the screen by “Fatal Attraction” and “Indecent Proposal” director Adrian Lyne. It’s not a great book to screen translation (especially with a few major changes, including to the book’s ending), but this mid-level psychological thriller is elevated by an understated, menacing performance from Ben Affleck.
It’s a marriage of mind games for Vic (Affleck) and Melinda (Ana de Armas), an unhappy couple who seem hell-bent on destroying their relationship (and each other). She openly flaunts her extramarital affairs in front of everyone, while he lives for her love. Not wanting a divorce, Vic chooses to look the other way while his wife emotionally tortures him by describing her sexual encounters with other men.
As Melinda’s manipulative streak grows stronger and more cruel, Vic decides to joke about murdering one of her ex-lovers who mysteriously disappeared, as a way to get back a little control in their dysfunctional relationship. But when subsequent flames turn up dead, those closest to Vic start to question his real guilt or innocence when it comes to killing his wife’s illicit partners.
There’s a potent ambiguity to the story, and Affleck turns in a terrific performance. He’s threatening and charming, which made me question Vic’s motives and the level of his honesty and lies.
Lyne has built a career on his penchant for similar material, and his directorial choices unfortunately feel very pedestrian and predictable. That’s not a big problem for a straightforward film like this, but lowered expectations are advised.
If you’re a fan of mysteries and crime dramas, “Deep Water” provides a slow burn that’s adequate, but not as thrilling as it could have been.