Deep End (Jerzy Skolimowski, 1970)

Deep End

This film was described, somewhere – can’t quite recall where – as “a lost classic” so, when it came up on Film 4, I whacked it on record and watched it at an early opportunity. It’s certainly interesting but I’m not sure it classifies as a classic.

John Moulder Brown plays Mike, a young lad straight out of school who takes a job at a local swimming pool, doing various odd jobs and looking after clients who expect individual service. He is mentored by Susan (Jane Asher, looking unfeasibly beautiful) a slightly older woman who is very aware of her sexuality and is flexing her muscles (so to speak!) in keeping a pretty crass but wealthy fiance in order whilst also conducting an affair with Mike’s ex PE teacher, a creepy older man who seems to have an unhealthy attraction to the girls in the class he brings to the pool.

Susan is amused, at first, by Mike’s naivete and instructs him on keeping the clients happy, including some pretty low-level sexual favours for ‘ladies of a certain age’ – a not-quite-her-best Diana Dors offering him an early lesson in what is expected of him. Despite, or perhaps because of, Susan’s clear uninterest in him, and her stand-offish attitude to him, Mike has an idealised adoration of Susan and becomes obsessed with her to the point where he starts trying to interfere with her private life, since her current suitors clearly aren’t good enough for her.

The location, like the film itself, looks drab and a bit washed out, as much of the period was as I recall, and the acting is similarly muted. Asher is fantastic and everyone else is at least adequate, but there is a curiosity that the acting throughout seems overly naturalistic in that the dialogue is delivered so realistically that it sometimes appears rather stilted – as real speech is but, dramatically, it loses something. There is a feeling of doom-laden inevitability that Mike’s infatuation will not end well. That the film ended in a way I didn’t quite expect isn’t really a recommendation, since I thought the end was cursory and slightly deisappointing.

So, an interesting film and certainly worth a watch but not one to search out in the hope of an undervalued gem.

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