Pathetic Fallacy: Our Review of ‘Drowning’

Drowning is an impressionistic film, or at least it aims to be, depicting most of its characters’ interactions way past introduction. It’s an approach that can be successful if the filmmakers do things right. Either way, it revolves around Rose (Melora Walters, also the film’s director), a woman with enough going on in her life. She’s constantly meeting a man, Henry (Jay Mohr), who teaches her how to swim. What this film is mostly about is her conflicting thoughts and feelings in letting her son Charlie (Sergio Rizzuto) into war. Her attachment to her estranged son is so strong that she and her husband Frank (Gil Bellows) won’t stop fighting about it. At least she has more polite discussions about her son with her boss (Mira Sorvino).

Other than its impressionistic approach, there’s also more novelistic touches during its b-scenes. The film chooses LA as its setting, so of course there are a lot of scenes when Rose drives to and from her swimming lessons. She drives around while listening to AM radio, its hosts respectfully spouting their opinions about the war Charlie is fighting. Rain falls on her car’s windshield while Walters adds the sound of bullets firing. These associations feel like something I would read in a novel. These scenes and the film as a whole feel gloomier than the average, stereotypical LA film. This is an example of pathetic fallacy and an obvious one at that.

Another critic has written about Walters being the competent protagonist for her own film, her high pitched voice making sense in playing a woman with arrested development. She can do a lot more with her direction and writing. I can barely see some of the characters’ faces during some nighttime scenes, which doesn’t feel like a deliberate choice. And while Rose isn’t driving, she’s having the same argument with Frank about her attachment with Charlie. Which, come to think of it, why doesn’t he care about her caring about her son so much? He might not be Charlie’s biological father, but even then, his apathy is something the film doesn’t explore.

Eventually, Rose no longer listens to AM radio while driving, and the film doesn’t give a reason for the change. And one more thing, the AM radio hosts talk about the War on Terror under Obama. It’s as if there hasn’t been, unfortunately, another person who has been running America for the past four years. Is this film trying to be a time capsule of the Obama years? Because if it is, there doesn’t seem to be a deliberate decision for this film to be one. This is a film about the war, which makes it inherently political. But it’s lacking as a political film, nor is it one with proper world building.

  • Release Date: 10/28/2020
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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