Vic Van Allen is a man who knows all about his wife’s lovers yet chooses to remain silent. He is an introvert who lets his wife have her share of lovers instead of giving her a divorce because the separation may leave a traumatic scar on their 12-year-old daughter. Thus, “Deep Water” begins with a couple, Vic and Melinda, who live under the same roof yet are distinctly apart. There is a pinch of sadness on Vic’s face, but Melinda sparks with joy. She is going to find someone new today or meet an old lover again who will probably be more interesting than her boring tech-genius husband. Vic and all his close-knit friends know about Melinda’s affair, but the question is, will Vic ever raise his voice against it? Or will he live in denial, as if nothing happened?
Based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel, the film is directed by Adrian Lyne. Zach Helm and Sam Levinson have adapted the screenplay and stayed loyal to the original narrative while changing the ending of the story to give it a more psychological touch. Hence, without any further ado, let’s explore the depths of the film.
Major Spoilers Ahead
‘Deep Water’ Plot Summary
Vic Van Allen (Ben Affleck) is a computer engineer who has designed sensor chips for drones that help them locate people. His innovation is being taken by the US government to design war drones that may help them fight wars in Middle Eastern countries. Nevertheless, with this drone chip, Vic has earned enough money to spend his days in luxury and thus lives in a peaceful small town in New Orleans with his wife, Melinda (Ana de Armas), and their daughter, Trixie. Vic spends most of his time practicing heliciculture and has also built a small nursery in the back shed of his house.
“Deep Water” begins as Vic and Melinda are invited to a party at Jess and Grantz’s house, where Melinda meets her current lover, Joel Dash. She quickly ditches her boring husband and hangs out with Joel while also kissing him near the pool. Vic gazes over his wife making out with another man and soon later enters into a conversation with Joel, during which Vic claims to kill Melinda’s previous lover, Martin McRae. Joel gets intimidated and leaves the party instantly. Through Joel, almost all of Vic and Melinda’s common friends find out about Vic’s claim to have killed Martin McRae with a hammer, which later Vic clarifies to be a dark joke that he pulled on Joel. However, in fear of Vic, Joel quickly leaves the city to start his new job in Mexico, and as soon as Jeol departs, Melinda brings another lover, Charlie De Lisle (Jacob Elordi).
For his daughter’s sake, Vic decides not to give a divorce to Melinda, but her new lovers make him jealous and incite anger inside him. He wants to do something about his wife’s infidelity, but cannot understand the motive. “Deep Water” further explores the psychological tension between the couple as they try to continue together even after learning each other’s dark secrets.
Why Did Melinda Start Seeing Different Men?
Every now and then, Melinda called her husband “boring.” Vic, however, was not boring, but introverted and thus a bit inexpressive. Melinda considered him cold, and thus the husband and wife slept in different rooms. Melinda probably went with Vic because he was rich and was also the father of her daughter, Trixie. She chose to live with a boring man under the same roof but decided to have fun outside her marriage because these romantic adventures sparked a passion inside her. Melinda knew that the men she mingled with were dumb, but they were fun.
However, every time Vic did something out of the ordinary, it excited Melinda, and the couple made love to each other. During Jess and Grantz’s party, Melinda asked Vic to dance with her, which Vic refused, probably due to his shyness. But later, during another house party, Kelly Wilson, wife of pulp-writer Don Wilson, asked Vic for a dance, which he didn’t deny. Watching Vic dance with Kelly not only made Melinda jealous but also sparked a desire for her husband, whom she saw in another woman’s arms.
But this love and desire didn’t last long, and Melinda started seeing her piano teacher, Charlie De Lisle. In the case of Charlie, Vic tried to stop Melinda from seeing him, and when she didn’t come for a night, Vic sent her daughter away and finally decided to confront Melinda. It was the time when Vic raised his voice against Melinda’s infidelity, and maybe Melinda wanted Vic to confront her, but he didn’t. She believed either it was a lack of passion in their marriage or that Vic didn’t love her anymore, which was why he allowed his wife to fool around. Maybe Melinda wanted to belong or someone to tame her wild spirit in a romantic way, but Vic was too shy or afraid of losing her and hence never really tried to stop her in the way he should. Instead, he started killing Melinda’s lover to keep them away from his wife. It was a simple lack of passion that two people could have sorted out together through a conversation, but instead, one decided to kill around while the other decided to hang around.
‘Deep Water’ Ending Explained – Why Didn’t Melinda Leave Her Husband?
When Vic failed to stop Melinda from seeing Charlie, Vic killed him during a pool party at night while no one was around. A nosy pulp-fiction writer, Don Wilson (Tracy Letts), saw Vic and Charlie alone in the pool and suspected that Vic probably killed him like he claimed to have killed Martin McRae. At this point, even Melinda was suspicious of her husband’s mental state and accused him of murder in front of the cops. However, due to a lack of evidence, the cops cleared Vic’s name.
But Don and Melinda didn’t let go of the matter and hired a private detective named David Ricigliani to gather evidence against Vic. Meanwhile, Melinda met her old flame, Tony Cameron (Finn Wittrock), and started seeing him again, which made him Vic’s next target. Vic took him to a hiking spot in the woods near the Gorge and killed him. He dragged Tony’s body into the stream and tied stones to his body to weigh him down into the deep water.
When Tony disappeared without informing Melinda, she felt ghosted and tried to ponder the fact that none of her casual affairs stayed for long, and maybe she should be loyal to the man who stuck with her through thick and thin. But it wasn’t just the disappearance of the lovers that brought Melinda close to Vic again, but also a change in his demeanor that became more explicit with every kill. Vic became more dominating and passionate, which Melinda yearned for.
The family went on a trip to the Gorge together, where Vic found out that Tony’s body had surfaced. Vic had finally achieved his wife’s love and undivided attention, and he couldn’t let one mistake put him behind bars, so he decided to attend to Tony’s body the next day. But while he was trying to drown the body with a wooden stick, Don Wilson appeared in the woods and started questioning Vic. Suddenly, Tony’s hand surfaced in the water, and Don finally concluded that Vic was indeed a sociopath. Don tried to flee in a car when Vic followed him to stop him. In a wild chase, Vic rode his bicycle in the thick woods and accidentally fell in front of Don’s car. Don steered away, trying to save Vic, and lost control of the vehicle that fell off the cliff, thereby taking away Don’s life.
When Don first met Vic, he told him about a film script that revolves around a noir fiction writer who uncovers a vast conspiracy in his town. Much like in his story, Don too uncovers a string of murders, but ironically, the truth takes away his life too. So maybe Don wrote a story where the writer wins it all, but “Deep Water” is definitely not that story.
In Vic’s absence, Melinda went inside his nursery and found Tony’s wallet. That suggested that Vic really had something to do with Tony’s disappearance, and judging by Vic’s past actions, Melinda was certain that he killed him too. She tried to leave the house when Trixie threw her mother’s luggage into the swimming pool and refused to leave the house. Even at this point, Trixie’s word had an expression of assertiveness that convinced or at least influenced Melinda’s decision to stay. When Vic returned home, Melinda sat in the same spot on the stairs where we saw her at the beginning of the film. She subtly told Vic that she had met Tony, thereby pointing out that she knew Vic’s secret but decided not to reveal it. In the closing frame, Melinda burns Tony’s wallet (and IDs) to get rid of all the evidence leading to Vic.
By the end of “Deep Water,” Melinda had understood one fact for sure: that Vic might sound cold, but he was indeed passionate. Or more than passionate, he was mysterious. That excited her. Another hidden part of Vic’s personality could be understood from his love for snails. He used to feel their skin against his while they crawled around his finger, and no matter how much he loved those snails, he didn’t shy away from eating them. Though Vic at one point told Tony that his snails were not for eating, a small cut during a ride to the Gorge revealed a box filled with empty snail shells at the back of Vic’s car that suggested that maybe he did dine on his beloved pets.
Will Vic Kill Melinda Too?
In the original text (Patricia Highsmith’s novel), when Melinda finds out about Vic’s psychotic killings, Vic strangles her to death to avoid arrest. But in the film, he doesn’t (at least by the end of the film). The reason behind it is explored in a scene where Vic asks Melinda if she thinks he killed Charlie, then why is she not frightened of him? At this point, Melinda suggests that she knows she is the thing he killed for and thus is certain that he will never cause her any harm.
Maybe Melinda will get bored of Vic again, or lose passion in the marriage, which will influence her to cheat again, but then there is Vic, who will kill again to stop other men from seeing his wife. Maybe this spiral will go on a loop as every time Melinda cheats, or Vic kills, it brings back the passion in their marriage, which is a bit messed up morally, but okay. It’s pulp-fiction, or at least we can say so.
“Deep Water” is a 2022 Mystery Drama film directed by Adrian Lyne.