Very spoilery about Deep Water, as much as we know what’s going on anyway. (If you’re looking for my review, it’s here.)
Let’s cut to the chase, so to speak: what happens, what the Van Allens’ future looks like, and what role the friends play in all this.
Vic gets away with all the deaths: Charlie the piano teacher in the swimming pool (whose body was discovered), Tony, the newly-arrived man from Melinda’s past (who lies dead in the river at the gorge, without his wallet and ID so possibly unidentifiable), and suspicious neighbour Don (upside down in his car in the gorge, after he saw Vic up to something).
When Vic cycles home from the gorge, he finds Melinda waiting for him. Despite packing to leave him, she’s changed her mind, after 6 year old Trixie threw their packed suitcase into the pool and refused to go.
Vic did not kill his wife’s old boyfriend Martin McRae, despite scaring off Melinda’s himbo lover Joel by claiming responsibility. Early in the film Vic tells Joel he killed McRae with a hammer, but when the body is discovered it turns out McRae was shot, and an unknown suspect is arrested.
We know there’s been a change to Vic and Melinda’s previous, weirdly groundhog day existence: the almost last scene where Vic arrives back on his bike from the gorge is near identical to the film’s first scene. He’s wearing different clothes but she is again sitting on their wooden staircase, in the same black patterned dress we first saw her in. The first time when he sees her looking at him he asks “what?” and she say “nothing,” then goes upstairs. This time after their “what?” “nothing” exchange she adds that she saw Tony, then turns and goes up. They both know she’s lying as they both know he’s dead, but that is now their story as they face the future together. Then we see her burning Tony’s ID cards so Vic cannot be connected to his disappearance.
Have the deaths turbo-charged her love for him? Does she admire him for killing out of love for her? Has she simply decided she can’t take an unwilling Trixie away, but can’t leave her either? I think Vic and Melinda are going to carry on, but together. I don’t think this is the end of Vic’s murders. Maybe they’ve created a circle where she brings in a new younger man into their lives, Vic is roused from his middle-aged, moneyed torpor enough to kill for her before her fling boredom level is reached, and she then has a space to fill with a new lover/victim. And of course neither will feel they’ve settled into wealthy suburbia and boring normality now. The question is, is it sustainable? And will Melinda even feel the need to cross traditional marriage boundaries any more, when they’re now involved in something so much worse?
Why does Vic kill Melinda’s boyfriends?
He’s obviously no longer able to cope with the situation in their marriage, especially as it is so public. It looks as if Charlie’s murder in the pool was spur of the moment, while Tony’s is more planned. By then Vic has heard Melinda on the phone talking to Tony about going to Brazil (Tony has been working there) and that Trixie will get used to it. I suspect that more than the fear of losing Melinda, Vic can’t cope with the idea of losing Trixie.
Vic and Don
I know, they sound like two minor league gangsters. While they have similarities (as I explained in my review) they finds themselves operating in entirely different ways. Vic is on the outside looking in, at his effortlessly comfortable wife dancing, singing and swimming with friends and other men. Vic looks from afar (through windows, or banisters, or half-closed doors) into his own marriage. Meanwhile Don constantly tries to centre himself in other people’s dramas. He is obsessed with Vic, sure that he’s a killer as soon as he hears the McRae rumour, ordering a private detective and going to the gorge. He’s always inserting himself into the narrative, as he desperately pursues his next big story for his writing.
Grant, Jonas and Jeff act as a barrier between Vic and the consequences of his crime (the murder of Charlie). While the women — apart from Mary, who is more circumspect — support Melinda, several (Mary, Kelly, Kristin) seem quite keen on Vic, who would be the alpha male of the group if Melinda’s behaviour didn’t make him a more pitiable figure.
The events leading up to the end
After Melinda’s piano teacher Charlie drowns in their pool during a party, Don is convinced Vic did it (we find out via flashback that he did). A distraught Melinda is soon seeing Tony, an ex-boyfriend who has reappeared in town. He comes to dinner, and meets the snails. A few days later Vic sees him out and about and tricks him into getting into his car, telling Tony that Melinda has some land she wants to build on. Tony goes with Vic, but as they get near to the gorge, a local beauty spot, Vic starts driving faster and faster. Eventually he stops the car and they get out. Vic throws a stone at Tony’s head. Tony tumbles down a steep slope, dying when he hits his head at the bottom. Vic tries to weight down the body with a rock and pushes it out into the river. He then drives home.
Melinda has started spending more time with Trixie. Mum and daughter want to go to a picnic at the gorge, so all three head over. While Trixie is playing, Melinda asks Vic why he’s the only man who wants to stay with her. He presents her with a book of photographs of her, which she loves. Vic sees Trixie playing close to the water’s edge, and behind her the outline of Tony’s body in the river. He persuades them to go home, though when Melinda realises she’s left her scarf behind Vic agrees to go back for it the next day. The pair are getting on better, as if the ambiguity over both Charlie’s death and Tony’s disappearance has invigorated their relationship for Melinda.
He cycles back to the gorge in the morning. Melinda finds Tony’s wallet in the snail house and realises Vic has killed him. At the gorge, as Vic tries to push Tony’s body deeper into the water with a stick, he looks up and sees Don with Melinda’s scarf. (Why is he there? Is he following Vic? Did he plan this with Melinda during their phonecall the night before? Vic knows that Don and Melinda have been discussing Don’s theories about Vic.)
As Don realises what is happening — Tony’s body bounces up to the surface again — Don rushes off to his car, both terrified and elated. He drives off at speed with Vic in pursuit on his mountain bike. As he drives he’s trying to text his wife with the news but fails. Don is gleeful about the story possibilities: “this is it, this is a book.”
Unable to catch up with Don’s car, Vic cuts through the forest on his bike, emerging in front of Don. Don swerves and the car, now out of control, goes over the cliff and ends up on its roof in shallow water. Presumably Don dies.
Melinda is at home packing to leave Vic. Trixie takes the case downstairs and shoves it in the pool, telling her mother they’re not going. When Vic gets home Melinda tells him she saw Tony.
The mid credits scene has Trixie in the back of the car, drawing and singing along to Leo Sayer’s You Make Me Feel Like Dancing, a repeat of a similar scene earlier in the film.
We don’t know the timeframe the events of Deep Water take place over. It looks as if Melinda goes from a dead lover to a live one in the blink of an eye. It’s possible there are weeks or months in between (I don’t know whether the New Orleans weather is meant to give us clues) but I’ve assumed not! Maybe I’m doing her a disservice?