Drown, an adaptation of a play of the same name by Stephen Davis, captures the confused, violent mindset of a man beginning to question his sexual orientation.
The film follows Len (Matt Levett), a lifesaving champion, whose life gets turned upside down by the arrival of the younger, fitter and faster Phil (Jack Matthews). Len’s confused feelings for Phil cause him to react violently, and when Phil wins the annual Sydney Lifesaving competition, Len begins to question his identity.
As these feelings develop, violence becomes the language Len uses to express his attraction to Phil, which inevitably begins the spiral of self-loathing that culminates in his destruction.
Voice-over is a prominent feature throughout Drown and allows the audience to get a real sense of Len’s internal turmoil, giving the clear idea that he is struggling to come to terms with his own identity.
The themes of homophobia, homosexuality and homoeroticism are constantly reinforced through the use of countless close-ups of male, semi-nude bodies both on land and underwater, as well as the slow motion shots of the swim-suited men. Director Dean Francis uses this imagery to create a truthful, sad movie, carefully developing the feelings Len has towards Phil.
The script isn’t great and there are times where the film borders on cringe-inducing, yet trying to tear your eyes from the screen is difficult. It may occasionally fall into melodrama, but the film takes on themes that relate to everyday life, which keeps it grounded.
Levett’s performance as the struggling Len is unimpressive at first, but as the narrative progresses it becomes evident how his mental stability and efforts to find his own identity are affecting his life and Levett’s creation of this fragile character is worth a watch.
Homophobia and violent bullying are prominent, and parts of the film are difficult to watch due to the carefully built and maintained intensity and tension. Ultimately, Drown is a shocking and intense psychological drama, but falls short of its potential.
Words by Steven Brown