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‘The Drowning’ (review)

Produced by Daniel Blanc,
Radium Cheung, Jamin O’Brien

Written by Stephen Molton, Frank Pugliese
Based on Border Crossing by Pat Barker
Directed by Bette Gordon
Starring Julia Stiles, Josh Charles, Avan Jogia,
Tracie Thoms, Leo Fitzpatrick, Robert Clohessy
 

The Drowning is a film adaptation of the Pat Barker novel, Border Crossing. It is a dark psycho-thriller starring Josh Charles as a therapist with a troubled past and Avan Jogia as a one of the main sources of that trouble. The film opens with Dr. Tom Seymour (Charles) saving Danny Miller (Jogia) from a suicide by drowning attempt. After Danny is pulled from the water Tom realizes he saved the life of a murderer that had been sent to prison based on a testimony that Tom had given.

This revelation leads to a fairly predictable series of interactions where Danny insinuates himself back into Tom’s life. He shows up at the house. He interacts with Tom’s wife Lauren, played by the always enchanting Julia Stiles. While the returned to society killer with an ax to grind story has been told far too many times to count, Jogia’s performance is really strong. His on screen charm and ability to manipulate everything around him is surprisingly credible.

Robert Clohessy, one of the great character actors of his generation, has a small role as Danny’s father. For most of the movie he remains off screen as the possible catalyst for Danny’s evil. When he appears it becomes clear he is one of the only people Danny hasn’t charmed and wants to correct the mistake of fathering such an abomination.

Being forced to act to subtext in almost every scene can’t be easy. Bette Gordon’s direction and framing is constantly insinuating things unsaid. Is Lauren having an affair? Is there some question to Danny’s guilt for the crime he was convicted? Is Danny sleeping with his case worker? What happened at the lake when Tom was a kid? There is a constant undercurrent of implication with very little in the way of payoff.

Josh Charles’ character is the leading man and he dominates the film. He is in almost every scene and the complexity of his character is very challenging. The nuanced strength of his performance can’t be minimized. Who is Dr. Tom Seymour? The answer to that question continues to evolve throughout the film.

This is a film about conflict. Both Danny and Tom are in conflict with each other, themselves and everyone around them. As each conflict gets resolved we find out more about who they really are. They change each other in ways you don’t always expect and that is an excellent recipe for a psycho-thriller.

 

4 out of 5 stars

 

The Drowning is available on Digital HD

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