We have a therapist Peter, who is lost, and a mistress Suzanne who is emotionally constipated and a little bitter. Whether Peter is a successful therapist or not, who knows, the movie is cliché free, nothing is being force-fed to the audience. We're shown a real man, a man who like all of us was a child and had to grow up. Only Peter dreams of rebirth, that is what his sessions with Suzanne are all about. He gives up the reins in an acknowledgement that he has not got whatever it was he was looking for (not necessarily success, which is the cliché most American movies use), and he's willing to let someone else take over. He wants help, the way his mother helped him overcome his stutter when he was a child.
Suzanne is an outsider, a girl with a foreign accent who became a pariah at school after fellating a boy who then told the whole school. Hers is a fantasy of control, and of detachment, a kind of revenge.
The movie is a pavane, slow, delicate, intriguing, melancholy. A subplot which could be easily missed is Peter's daughter, who we never really see up close. She sends a postcard from Venice, a beautiful black and white photograph of the Bridge of Sighs. In the final shot of the movie she is paddling a bright yellow canoe up and down the river, at a distance. So what we have here is a man becoming a statue, slowly crystallising, the potentialities of life disappearing, clearly counterpointed by the life of his daughter. "Isn't it funny...", he said, "how once they tell you everything, and now they tell you nothing." Going Under is a very quiet film, there are no pop culture references, no special effects, no regurgitation. It takes place in an anonymous America, a place devoid of national sentiment. The movie is commenting on two individuals, not the state of the nation, and really not the BDSM community (we are shown a scene in a bar that really juxtaposes what goes on in the community generally to what is going on with out characters specifically, which is quite different). Quite how such a personal film ever got made I don't know, but I salute the filmmaker Eric Werthman for this attempts.
It is clear that some of the movie-making is not professional, one example being that you can hear Suzanne and Peter talking in a car when the doors are closed and the camera is outside, this is a paradoxical sort of a scene where the status of the camera as interloper is compromised. Also the acting is not always wholly capable. But I think that the suspension of disbelief is never quite compromised.