“A well-to-do husband who allows his wife to have affairs in order to avoid a divorce becomes a prime suspect in the disappearance of her lovers.”

Director: Adrian Lyne
Writers: Zach Helm, Sam Levinson, Patricia Highsmith
Staring: Ben Affleck, Ana de Armas, Tracey Letts, Grace Jenkins
Release Date: March 18, 2022

Deep Water (2022) came onto the cinematic radar with a lot of buzz. Based off the well-known book of the same name written by Patricia Highsmith, Deep Water follows the tumultuous marriage of the flirtatious Melina (Ana de Armas) and the eerily calm Vic (Ben Affleck). To call the union between Melinda and Vic conventional would be equivalent to calling this movie’s screenplay well written; both are a rip-roaring knee slapping joke.

Melinda enjoys the adventurous lifestyle of blatant flirting and adultery. She makes incredibly friendly acquaintances with attractive young men all in the face of her husband. Vic is always watching and deflecting people’s worries, citing how he does not want to control who his wife is. What the couple show on the exterior is different from their inner ethos, most notably in heart of Vic.

The feelings in the shadows start to have a light shown on them when all of a sudden, Melinda’s lovers begin showing up as missing persons or deceased. Vic’s name is immediately tossed in the ring of suspects, but his kill-you-with-kindness attitude constantly throws wrenches in people’s theories. Can Vic be trusted? Is Melinda safe? Who is the one trying to survive and tread water in the deep end?

Deep Water is an immense disappointment. Plain and simple. Deep Water fails on multiple fronts, leading to a cringe-watching experience with forced sexual tension and woefully underwhelming plot and character payoffs. The leader of the look away you are embarrassing me moments belongs to the this movie’s Helen of Troy herself, Ana de Armas.

Armas herself is sexy, but the interactions and tension within the story are not. Does that make sense? Melinda is the queen of throwing her hand on a man’s chest and making him feel like a million bucks, but that crown is laced with thorns of over-eagerness. Deep Water is marred by people trying too hard, and Armas deserves the spotlight. The sexiest Armas is in Deep Water are in the quiet moments and never when she is meant to be over zealous. The childish whimsical nature of she as an adulterer makes it hard to find any of her escapades credible. It is hard to empathize with Vic’s quiet jealously because the baby-voice version of Melinda is not attractive at all.

Ana de Armas as Melinda

It is fair to blame part of Ana de Armas’ disappointing performance on the screenplay of Deep Water. Admittedly I have not read the novel Deep Water yet (though it is in my Audible queue), so this translation to screen may be accurate to the source material. If such is the case, then this would be a prime example on how writing for screen and writing for text is very different. You need to paint a very vivid image when you write for someone to read so the crank it up to 11 sexy flirting writing makes sense. Guess what? You don’t need to do that on screen. We don’t need the high school exuberance of flirting. Let de Armas act with a bit more of allure and subtly. Such an adjustment would make the character of Melinda dangerous and respectable, and would create more mystique around Vic and what he sees.

Let’s get personal for a minute here. Perhaps the reason I didn’t like Ana de Armas’ performance and character is because I have been in the shoes of Vic before. I dated someone a while back who enjoyed the flirtatious side of life even when in a relationship for me. I remember when she danced provocatively in the dining room of her house with someone, and when I didn’t like it and left, she followed me and said I embarrassed her because she was only doing it to put on a show for me. In the moment I felt ashamed, but hindsight being 20/20, I hated it then and I still don’t like the idea of it now. It is not my type of thrill-seeking tension. Perhaps I empathize with Vic and some (NOT ALL) of the thoughts he had.

Alright, back to Deep Water. Thanks for the brief therapy session.

Ben Affleck is good in Deep Water. Okay…maybe not good…but he is the best part. Salvageable may be the right word. I mentioned earlier that the character Vic runs through awkwardness with a kill them with kindness smile and attitude, and Affleck is very good at that fake smile and trust. When Affleck has to act legit outraged and when his flip switches, that is where the performance wanes.

Ben Affleck as Vic

There are two scenes in Deep Water where Vic confronts Don Wilson (Tracy Letts). Wilson doesn’t trust Vic as far as he can throw him, and Vic knows this. The stronger of a twiddling conversation between the pair comes in Vic’s snail farm when Vic doesn’t beat around the bush and talks straight to Don. It makes sense that in his own happy space, Vic is confident enough to take the bait. A bad example of an interaction between the two men comes when Vic barges into Don’s home and confronts him about hiring a private investigator. This scene is meant to be filled with crackling thunder clouds of simmering frustration, but it comes off more as a yippy dog barking at a pedestrian walking by.

Don and Vic are involved in my least favorite scene in the entire movie. An ultimate “oh well isn’t this convenient” moment. If you don’t want to be spoiled, I’d stop till you don’t see italics anymore

*SPOILER *

How fucking convenient is it that Don shows up to the gorge at the same as Vic? Are we seriously going to just call it a stroke of good luck? Did I miss something here? It is far too convenient. It is as if a genie granted a magic wish.

Don is somehow at the gorge where Vic supposedly retrieving Melinda’s scarf but is, in reality, actually ensuring the body of Melinda’s latest lover goes floating down the river. Don sees Vic, they have a full convo, and then a limp, dead arm appears from the water and Don is suddenly on the run trying to tell his wife and everyone the truth.

Now ensues a terrible chase sequence where Don is swerving down a hill like a mad man and is unable to type into his phone. The classic fat thumbs while driving excuse. The soap opera nature continues with Vic biking through the woods as if he is a professional BMX driver only to then crash just in front of Don’s car…sending Don off a cliff.

What, the hell, was this? Don had been portrayed as a keen-eyed type of guy who is able to discern things and stay calm. Suddenly though in this moment he gets frazzled and begins acting like a mad-man who can’t process thoughts? He was never that close to Vic in the chase all the way to the end. What was Vic going to do if he caught up to the car…with his bike? How was he going to get in.

The screenplay creates this moment out of thin air, but then doesn’t even execute it well. Double frustration.

And while I have you here in the spoilers area, let’s talk about how this movie ends. Melinda finds the trophies of Vic, but instead of running she chooses to stay. Is this aided by a very random scene of her daughter throwing her suitcase in the pool and suddenly caring so much about their marriage when all she did was ask her dad if he murdered someone? Possibly. But ignoring that point, I still don’t hate them ending up together. It fits, the two types of evil in one pod together. They now have a new sexual game, which frankly is a more exciting thought than the first.

Can there be a sequel to Deep Water where the two know their sexual kink is linked? Melinda luring young men into her aura, all while knowing that after she is satisfied by them, that her husband will kill them to show he still has power that she (now not so secretly) is incredibly turned on by? That is a quality premise that can probably work.

*SPOILER END*

Director Adrian Lyne is known for his portrayal of sexiness on the screen, but 20 years between movies definitely left some rust that he still needs to work off. Deep Water is not shot in an interesting way, rather it is show exactly how you would predict it to be with glances through windows and other voyeurism themes. There are more shots that I disliked than I remember. One in particular is a shot near the end when a revelation is revealed upon Don is remarkably uninspiring. It needed a different framing to show the point of view of Don because he was at a weird angle.

I will give credit to Lyne for one shot. When Melinda is prancing around with Charlie De Lisle (Jacob Elordi). At a party, the piano teacher and Melinda come out of a room by themselves, and the viewpoint we get is Vic atop a set of stairs. He is in the shadows with a god-like POV on his little innocent wife committing a horrific sin. It shows his inflated, but quiet, ego and shows how he looks down at what he considers his.

Deep Water steps off a deep ravine compared to the quality viewers had to have been expecting. We are watching two of the biggest stars in Hollywood (who also became a perfectly memeable couple) who have very little chemistry with one another on screen struggle to create entertainment from a underwhelming and unimpressive script. Deep Water will generate eye balls, that is for sure. Hulu can not be upset about that. Part of me wants to give them more credit for this bad movie compared to Netflix who knows the movies they put out aren’t always trying to be good. Deep Water was trying to be elevated, but it falls short on every mark. You won’t be left hot and steamy after having taken this viewing plunge, but you’ll be hot behind the ears with disappointment and regret.

STANKO RATING: D+ (2.0/5 Stars)


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