starring Ben Affleck, Ana De Armas, Tracy Letts, Grace Jenkins
screenplay by Zach Helm and Sam Levinson, based upon the novel by Patricia Highsmith
directed by Adrian Lyne
by Walter Chaw Patricia Highsmith's closest analogue in film for me is David Cronenberg--insect anthropologists, both, who see human beings in terms of their emotionless, biomechanical tics and repetitions. Her books are insidious things, death by quicksand or, like the protagonist of her short story "The Snail-Watcher," drowned beneath a sea of the snails he keeps and breeds as objects of...well, it's more than fascination. The hero of Highsmith's Deep Water, Vic Van Allen, keeps snails, too. He names them, studies them, escapes to them when he can't bear the company of his licentious wife, Melinda. He finds profundity in their couplings and multiplications as well as tragedy in their deaths, and he sees in them a corollary to his relationship with a wife he despises and a child he adores. Vic Van Allen can be understood entirely as an insect in a man's clothing. He is slow, inexorable where Melinda is quicksilver, flighty, and resentful of their life together, seeking comfort and an escape of her own in a parade of lovers. At the root of it all, Highsmith is about forms of escape: the bomb shelters to which we retreat when stimulated, prodded, provoked like snails back into our shells.