But of course each movie is an experience in itself and we can only measure it on its own merits Thus we come to Drown, which is interestingly enough an LGBT film hailing from Australia. It's a movie with a pretty serious message at heart, but in this manner it ends up falling into the same category of other such dramatic pieces with serious messages to impart.
Some parts of this movie felt rather uncomfortable to me - this is not an easy movie to watch under any circumstances. And this may be a good thing given the subject matter of the movie, but it doesn't soften the blow to any significant degree.
Synopsis: Drown is a 2015 Australian LGBT drama directed by Dean Francis, who also contribute to the screenplay of the film. Other screenplay credits go to Stephen Davis, as the movie is also based on a play Davis wrote. The movie tried to go the Indiegogo route, but it appears the crowdfunding effort had not been successful at the time.
The movie focuses on the world of competitive Surf Lifesaving and its current champion, Len (Matt Levett). But things change when the younger Phil (Jack Matthews) arrives at the club and starts to make waves within the group. It's clear that he;s going to be a contender in future competitions, and this clearly upsets Len to some degree. It is also revealed that Phil is gay, which presents another potential complication for things.
But over time Len's feelings of competitiveness and jealousy also lead to some confusing moments when he seems to be developing feelings of some sort for Phil. But once Phil finally takes the championship at the annual surf competition, this somehow pushes Len over the edge. Thus he and his buddy Meat (Harry Cook) decides to take Phil out for drinks together to celebrate the victory. But things take a sinister turn as Len starts to vent his frustrations in an increasingly physical manner with Meat oddly helpless to stop him.
Drown was designed to be a movie about bullying and it decided to address this in a highly dynamic but sometimes confusing sequencing that has you as the viewing gets different parts of the story and seemingly random intervals. I'm sure there's potentially some greater relevance for why which part went where, but I think it's still fair to say that things could have been handled in a tighter, slightly more linear manner.
But as you get all the pieces, you will walk away with the ingredients for a rather complete story. You'll see bits of Len's past and you'll witness moments of his history that may explain his need to assert himself through bullying. You'll see some of Phil's life with his boyfriend and how he got caught up in everything. And ultimately you'll see the chain of events that led to the tragic night for the three of them.
Meat is sadly that character who just can't say no to his friend. We repeatedly see him as part of the action but not necessarily one with his own agency in things. He's there but he's not. He mostly follows what Len has to say, as is the case with many bullies who are alpha-type individuals who gather weaker followers to bolster themselves.
As much as I felt some of the acting in the more mundane bits felt a little flat and awkward at times, I have to give credit to what the actors had to go through for the more serious and intense parts of the story. There's no way any of that could have been easy and I even just acting through the events could have been at least a little disturbing and potentially traumatizing. But the team behind this movie had a serious message to deliver and they managed this with quite the heavy story indeed.
I guess that's my only problem with this movie - at times it feels too heavy or something along those lines. The director gives you little to no rest with all the tension in the film. And this is especially true since events are not told in sequence - so we are repeatedly brought back to the "present" of the movie, which is that one big bender and the final scene on the beach. And as much as the early bits about the beach were already heavy, it actually gets worse as you get into the second half of the film. We're talking some really serious stuff.
Drown is certainly a movie with a somewhat heavy-handed message, but they were well-intentioned and I think they quite adequately achieved their goals here. Sure we all could have used some relief, but that might have impacted the overall tone of things. Thus the movie gets 3.5 pretty scary moments on the beach out of a possible 5.