›› Drown ‹‹

a film by Dean Francis.

2015 | 93 mins | Australia.

a striking portrait of repressed homosexuality.

Dave says:

From co-writer and director Dean Francis of Boys Grammar fame comes this brutally realistic depiction of sexual repression and longing.

For this is the story of Len (Matt Levett); a five times winner of the annual Sydney Lifesaving competition and if anything, a legend in his own lifetime; namely the man who every new lifeguard yearns to emulate. Only when a younger, faster and fitter lifeguard arrives in the form all-round cutie Phil (Jack Matthews) and promptly saves a boy on his first day, Len realizes that his days of being the top dog of the team are all but over. Confused and reacting violently to events out of his control, things take a turn for the worse when a boys' night out sees Phil, Len and his straight best friend and fellow lifeguard "Meat" (Harry Cook) walk on the gay side of life, a scene that Phil is only too at ease with, unlike Len who finds his long suppressed desires for sexual intimacy of the man-on-man kind rapidly come to the surface, with alarming consequences for one and all.

Cross-cutting his work with more cuts than a lumberjack with a chainsaw in his hand, here we find Francis delight in delivering a film that continually jumps between past and present time frames. It's a ploy that keeps the action going at breakneck speed, even if the viewer is aware from the onset of the film's ominous ending. Yet look closer and like a stage illusionist, Francis is ever misdirecting your attention away from a series of narrative pitfalls, not least of which is the troubling nature of the relationship between the two leads, given how a bruised and bloody Phil is seemingly only too happy to hang out with the man who earlier had assaulted him; rather than spend the night in the arms of his loving boyfriend.

That said, what makes this feature standout from being just an ogglefest of speedo clad hunks, is the solid acting throughout and in particular from Levett who delivers a tour-de-force performance of a man whose homosexual desires have been awoken upon the arrival of the "sweet cheeks" physique of Phil; wonderfully played by Matthews. Unable to express his true feelings for Phil, if not secretly envious of a man who's not only openly gay, but in a loving relationship, Len bottles up his emotions, hiding them behind a mask of laddish heterosexuality; one that's guaranteed to shatter in the most shocking way possible.

And it's here that this feature comes into its own in vividly exposing the inner turmoil of a man who simply cannot come to terms with his attraction to his own sex. It's a sexual longing that sees Len obsessively visit Phil's dormitory at night, ever looking at him, always yearning to be with the object of his adoration, unable to keep his hands off Phil; whether it be the loving hands of a friend, or those of a homophobic bully.

Adapted for the screen by co-writer Stephen Davis from his noted play and beautifully staged right up to its gripping, if somewhat disturbing finale, this compelling, dark and frankly powerful piece is as much a remarkably honest picture of gay self-loathing, as that of a work on unrequited love itself. Not for the faint-hearted by any means given the unsettling nature of the third act, this nonetheless makes for a striking portrait of repressed homosexuality in an overly toxic masculine environment, from a director who's clearly not afraid to push the cinematic envelope for all its worth. Simply captivating, if uncomfortable viewing come close-of-play.

Postscript: Congratulations to actor Harry Cook who has since come out as gay, proudly saying it like it is - good on ya, mate!

›› available as part of the PECCADILLO PICTURES catalogue: 12th October, 2015 / UK.
›› revised: Monday, 17th April, 2023.

Gay Visibility - overt | Nudity - bare-arsed cheek / the side monty - real or fake? | Overall - file under ... 4 stars

›› copyright © 2023 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com ‹‹
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