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Deep Water Review: Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas Erotic Thriller Is the Good Kind of Trash

They play a couple on the outs... and in on murder?

Jordan Hoffman
Ana de Armas, Deep Water

Ana de Armas, Deep Water

Claire Folger/20th Century Studios

There's a world of difference between garbage and trash. A garbage movie is something you tolerate on an airplane (it beats staring at my shoes!) but trash, good, dishy trash, is something that, in moderation, should be celebrated. Deep Water, which debuts on Hulu Friday, March 18, while not exactly a thinking-person's film, certainly falls into this category.

The 81-year-old British film director Adrian Lyne is a connoisseur of trash. This is the man who brought us 9 1/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction, Indecent Proposal, and Unfaithful. (He also made the 1997 version of Lolita that, quite frankly, I never had the guts to watch. I get uncomfortable easily, so I'll stick with Stanley Kubrick's heavily coded take from 1962!)

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With Deep Water, Lyne lucked into casting Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas as Vic and Melinda Van Allen, a couple tied up in one of those "it's complicated!" marriages you sometimes hear about. The two performers began an off-screen affair after meeting on set (the sultry New Orleans location likely didn't hurt), and became one of the more delightful (and delightfully photographed) relationships of the early Covid era. Gone was Sad Affleck, staring off into the horizon at the beach. Instead, gossip blogs were awash in pics of Ben with the bubbly Ana de Armas, riding bicycles, walking dogs, and drinking Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee. This was, and I'm actually being a little bit serious about this, a great distraction for many in the spring and summer of 2020.

We know now that the romance was not meant to last, but we'll always have this film — this tawdry, weird film — as a keepsake. Is it any good? Actually, yes, it has just enough depth to it beyond just snickering "and they were really doing it at the time!" when Affleck and de Armas are on screen. Deep Water is based on the 1957 novel by Patricia Highsmith, whose work has inspired an entire shelf of classic films, including Strangers on a TrainThe Talented Mr. Ripley, The American Friend, Purple Noon, Carol, and others. (A French version of Deep Water was released in 1981 with Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Louis Trintignant.) So there is a veneer of class to this ultimately preposterous movie about murder, cuckoldry, and people who do nothing but attend fancy dinner parties.


Deep Water


  • Adrian Lyne returns to form as a master of the erotic thriller
  • Ana de Armas is perfectly cast
  • It knows what kind of movie it is


  • It's not a must-see film especially for those who are not connoisseurs of trash

Vic Van Allen (Affleck) is a retired computer whiz who sold some gizmo to the government, who now use his creation to aid in drone warfare. Killing people from afar wasn't exactly Vic's intention with the device ("it can be use to find starving children and drop food off to them") but he doesn't seem too worked up about the true practice. It has, after all, afforded him early retirement. He spends his days working on a vanity journal of photography and poetry, tending to a small farm of snails, and singing with his adorable young daughter. There's also his gorgeous and much younger wife, Melinda (de Armas), who slips in and out of various backless gowns on their way to upscale events.

Nice life, right? Well, there's a problem. Melinda, you see, is more than a flirty bird. She's schtupping every hot young thing in town, and everyone knows it. And Vic knows that they know. He sits there quietly and takes it, with a pained, almost constipated look on his face. How, his friends wonder, can he stand it?

Well, that's the thing. Maybe he's doing something in secret. After all, no one knows what happened to Malcolm, a friend of the Van Allens's extended circle who just so happened to disappear (and seemed unusually close to Melinda).

When Vic gets a moment with Melinda's newest lover (a long hair with a Maryland accent — how gauche!), Vic jokes that, actually, he killed Malcolm. But is he really joking? It's hard to tell! How could anyone know what's going on in the head of a dude who just sits there while his wife gets drunk at parties, smooches people in front of everyone, and leads the room in a singalong of esoteric 1980s Italian pop hits. (Yes, Paolo Conte fans, this is the movie you've been waiting for!)

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The "is he or isn't he?" mystery plays out for a while, until we are given a definitive answer. What we're left with instead is "will she care?" And that's where the movie gets interesting.

It's not like Deep Water is some kind of rich, probing, inquiry into what makes lovers tick. It's not Phantom Thread or The Duke of Burgundy or anything like that. But it does dip its toe into that pool, allowing that human desire has something of a Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle to it. If you try to pin it down, it will scurry away.

More to the point: Ana de Armas. Ana. De. Armas. The outfits, the glances, the breathy scenes in the boudoir. This is quality cinema, as anyone with a pulse will agree. The camera adores her, and Adrian Lyne does not shirk his duty of keeping her front and center. (Tastefully, I assure you.) Affleck is also top notch as the tormented, grimacing cuck. It's a hoot. Supporting players Tracy Letts and Lil Rel Howery are also in on the joke. Everyone is happy to be invited to the party, and this is one that'll get talked about the morning after.

Premieres: Friday, March 18 on Hulu
Who's in it: Ben Affleck, Ana de Armas, Tracy Letts, Jacob Elordi
Who's behind it: Adrian Lyne (Fatal Attraction)
For fans of: Erotic thrillers, seeing exes on-screen together