During the initial Covid Lockdown in Spring of 2020, the most popular new celebrity couple on the block was indisputably Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas. Now, two years and a break up later, the erotic thriller in which they first met and ignited their real-life romance is finally seeing the light of day. Originally shot in late-2019 and meant for a theatrical release, Deep Water is now being dumped on Hulu for reasons soon to be obvious. An adaptation of the 1967 novel of the same name, notably co-written by Euphoria creator Sam Levinson, the film primarily follows Vic (Affleck), a husband who lets his wife (Armas) cheat on him in an attempt to avoid divorce. However, as terrible things start to happen to her various lovers, he becomes a prime suspect.
This premise appears to promise a thrilling murder mystery full of passion and lust, yet Deep Water is not able to deliver on this potential in practically any aspect. The opening moments of any suspense narrative are so critical when attempting to engage an audience. In Deep Water, that first impression is clouded by anything but subtle product placement, making the introduction feel like a drawn-out advert for Amazon’s Alexa, distracting from what should have been the foundation to the story, the family at hand, and a fully-fledged investigation into human behavior.
The film does not give itself nearly enough time to establish the relationship dynamics at hand before throwing the audience into the deep end (no pun intended). The script would have highly benefited from spending more alone time with Vic and Melinda in the opening act, homing in on their characterization in order to emphasize the volatile rift which continues to grow as the plot progresses. The couple’s pivotal relationship is one that never seems worth saving and as a result, the stakes constantly feel low despite lives being literally at risk.
Within the ensemble, not one of the performances stands out in the slightest. After an assortment of far more multi-faceted roles in the past couple of years, both Ana de Armas and Ben Affleck fall awkwardly flat while other supporting actors, such as Euphoria star Jacob Elordi, are terribly underused. It’s a real testament to how misdirected Deep Water is when the two leads seemingly had more chemistry off-screen in the public eye than in front of the camera. This only adds to the list of things that needed to be strengthened in order to pull off a story that relies on the intensity, desire, and jealousy that can come with being in an extremely toxic relationship.
An erotic thriller of this kind ultimately needs its emotional core to be burning with a fiery passion to succeed. Unfortunately, Deep Water is one of those films that becomes terribly frustrating as you continue to ponder the potential within the story, especially with this level of star power. The film’s swift streaming release isn’t very shocking given its quality. Even if these types of thrillers are your guilty pleasure, no matter how bad or predictable they may be, forcing yourself through two hours of lifeless and uninspired writing and performances of this sort is simply not worth it.