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The Living End

From the directors of Suture comes a new film noir that's more deep than dead.

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A mother's dirty work is never done.
  • A mother's dirty work is never done.

When Margaret Hall, a Lake Tahoe housewife played by Tilda Swinton, erroneously believes that her teenage son (Jonathan Tucker) has murdered his unsavory older lover (Josh Lucas), she snaps into high gear to cover up the "crime." She thinks she's controlled the situation, until a mysterious young man named Spera (Goran Visnjic) turns up, demanding $50,000 in return for a videotape of the son and the victim having sex -- a tape that will almost certainly make the boy a prime suspect.

As Margaret desperately tries to raise the money, she begins to develop a strange relationship with the increasingly guilt-ridden blackmailer, who sees, in her mundane but decent world, everything he has forfeited in a lifetime of bad decisions.

After nearly a decade, Suture auteurs Scott McGehee and David Siegel finally deliver a second feature with The Deep End, an exciting, sharply realized melodramatic film noir, based on the same novel that was the source for Max Ophuls's classic The Reckless Moment. Fans of the outrageously bold Suture may be disappointed at the essentially conservative style of The Deep End.

One of the difficult tasks that McGehee and Siegel pull off smoothly is the shift of focus from Margaret to Spera. We are so strongly tied to her point of view for the first third of the film that it should be disorienting when the story starts cutting back and forth between the two characters, but it isn't. In part, this is thanks to the two central performances.

With The Deep End, McGehee and Siegel have made an engrossing, often enlightening character study -- which most great noir films are, under the surface. And they've shown that it's possible, in the 21st century, to make a film noir that isn't (in the usual sense) "neo-noir." There is no whiff of "retro" about the project, no homages or self-conscious harking back to a beloved set of conventions and stylistic touches. In that, they have been more faithful to the spirit of the original noir directors: They've simply approached the story on its own terms, letting that determine the style.

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