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The relationship between doctor and patient in film is one often shrouded in darkness, one that thrillers take to the extreme of course. Wouldn’t be thrillers if they didn’t. In The Drowning, that relationship is admittedly a curious one with a great setup and a solid premise, though the waters here are murky and it treads uneasily from the very start.
On the shores of a pastoral Connecticut river, seemingly happy couple Lauren (Julia Stiles) and Tom (Josh Charles) Seymour are getting some air when they spot a young man leap into the depths in an apparent suicide. Tom, a child psychiatrist (and self-proclaimed great swimmer) saves him and discovers only later that he actually knows him, identified as Danny Miller (Avan Jogia), a former patient who served time for murder, who is convinced he went to prison because of Tom’s flawed testimony. Now he’s looking to settle the score.
Directed by Bette Gordon, The Drowning is a film that makes no attempts to sidetrack us from the obvious, a thriller that follows the formula so concretely it is, at least, undeniably stable. With that comes a certain detachment as we recognize all too well the colorless characters and plotting, even as Gordon manages to squeeze a few good moments from the predictable. These are people who live in a world where false drama is wrung from every possible corner, including dramatic musical cues and sounds effects for just about every action, including entering a room and lighting a cigarette, all punctuated by needless pokes at our attention.
A film like this requires characters to be abstruse, to purposefully conceal and misdirect. Tom won’t tell Lauren who Danny is even when he turns up one morning at their house in a scene that is so familiar and overdone it nearly inspires a laugh. Tom and Lauren are so blandly unhappy, their relationship is a laundry list of guffaws from innocuous debates about life in the city (where she works as an artist) and the country to unemotional sex where he won’t even open his eyes. That’s the metaphor for how he treats her throughout, from her unique painting style (she uses beeswax) to her attempts at getting pregnant. It’s all a shallow exercise.
Charles fares well if stoically even and Stiles is perfuctory while Jogia is a cardboard cutout of the trope, even while he has some flare about him that hints of possible potential. The real issue is the painfully mundane pacing and story that with some trimming could better play as an episode of a cable television drama. With its uninspired score (by Anton Sanko) and unwillingness to try to even challenge its audience, this is an unfortunate misstep that tries far too hard to be pulpy while ironically lacking any energy to make it move.
Movie description: The Drowning in s a 2017 dramatic thriller about psychiatrist who becomes involved in the treatment of a recently released prisoner with a haunting past.
Director(s): Bette Gordon
Actor(s): Julia Stiles, Josh Charles, Tracie Thoms
Genre: Drama, Thriller