sun 08/12/2019

Deep Water, BBC Four | reviews, news & interviews

Deep Water, BBC Four

Deep Water, BBC Four

Promising, disturbing opening to Sydney gay-themed detective drama

Melbourne vs Sydney: investigators Tori Lustigman (Yael Stone, centre) with Nick Manning (Noah Taylor)

Australian drama has come on in leaps and bounds since Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, The Sullivans and Prisoner: Cell Block H. While Neighbours and Home and Away continue to play in the sand, other shows – The Secret Life of Us, The Dr Blake Mysteries and Cloud Street – display more ambition. Their reach may sometimes exceed their grasp but that’s what TV is for. Do check out the five-star metrosexual comedy drama Please Like Me on Amazon Prime. You’ll like it.

Deep Water starts as it means to go on: two male swimmers writhe in the South Pacific Ocean. They are making out, not drowning. However, it’s not long before one of them, Haris Rexhaj (Julian Maroun), is dead in bed with knife wounds to his balls (primly referred to as “testes” throughout). We never find out how he – and the homophobic boxing coach in the apartment below – can afford to live in million-dollar properties overlooking Bondi Beach.

The camera hardly ever stops prowling 

Today Sydney is portrayed as a gay paradise – many think the lifeguards, Speedos scrunched between their buns of steel, are more than worth the 22-hour flight – but it wasn’t always thus. Real footage shows the first Mardi Gras parade being broken up by thugs in 1978. It took a long time for the pink pound to be welcomed. Some locals considered homosexual men fair(y) game and took “cruising for a bruising” to extremes. The AIDS epidemic was all the justification they needed. A government-sponsored commercial dubbed “The Grim Reaper” – also included in the first episode – declares: “It could kill more Australians than World War II.”

Tori Lustigman (Yael Stone), the detective investigating the death of Haris (who hadn’t told his family that he was gay), discovers that since the mid-1970s more than 70 gay men in the area have either been assaulted or murdered, said to have committed suicide or simply disappeared. This is fact not fiction. In Deep Water one of them turns out to be her gay brother Shane. Their father insists that he drowned. If you think Shane is handsome, his nephew, Will (CK model Otis Pavlovic) is very juicy jailbait and it’s no surprise (except to his mother!) when he pops up on Thrustr, the dating app that a serial killer is using to select his victims.

Pavlovic appeared in the first series of The Code (the second, which finished on BBC Four last Saturday, was by no means as good). At least three of the cast of Deep Water were also on the screen last weekend: as in Scandinavia, the pool of acting talent is not a large one so the same faces show up time and time again. One of them here, Ben Oxenbould (pictured right, with Yael Stone), plays ex-football star Chris Toohey, a family man who just happens to like sex with young men (in secret).

Tori, newly arrived in Sydney from Melbourne (the rivalry between the cities is not ignored), is a maverick munchkin, contemptuous of authority – especially her white middle-aged male colleagues whom she suspects of not only not caring about gay murders but also actively covering them up. The exception is the world-weary detective Nick Manning who, at the end of the first episode, shoots dead Haris’s distraught lover Rohan (George Harrison Xanthis), an immunologist who has outstayed his visa and is therefore an illegal immigrant.

Manning is played by the wonderful Noah Taylor. He’s come a long way since he first appeared as the son of a supergrass in Promised Land, an episode of Inspector Morse filmed in Australia: Locke in Game of Thrones, and Darby Sabini in Peaky Blinders. He, apart from the scenery, is the real star of the show. 

Director Shawn Seet does his best to bring darkness to this gripping tale of evil under the sun. As in The Code he has a fondness for using surveillance footage, keeping one half of a frame out of focus, and shooting through venetian blinds or chain-link fences. The camera hardly ever stops prowling.

The ambition of the series lies in its attempts to highlight shocking hatred and injustice within the familiar framework of a serial-killer drama. It is not without clichés but let’s put them down to the demands of the genre. So, after the first two episodes of four, Deep Water is both promising and disturbing. However, The Slap still remains the zenith of Aussie drama.

Director Shawn Seet does his best to bring darkness to this gripping tale of evil under the sun


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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