Film reveiw of 2015 Austrailian move ‘Drown’

Drown (Francis), a film by Australian, gay identified director Dean Francis depicts the brutal reality of immense and outward heteronormativity within the competitive sports world. It shows us what often happens when people step out of line of the naturalized state of hegemonic masculinity. This film sheds light on the physical and psychological bullying and homophobia that individuals who do not fit with in the sexual binary face.

The Australian film immediate grips the viewer with its raw, beautiful and powerful imagery. The aural experience is enchanting, ranging from intense sounds of violence and emotion to the electric and euphoric build-up of pumping dance music that heightens the viewer’s excitement, awe and anxiety. It gives the spectator mixed emotions through captivating scenes of excitement and eroticism, parallel to this is a sense of uneasiness, an under lying feeling that something big and bad is just around the corner.

The film is based around two main characters, Len, played by Matt Levett, who is a mentally unstable hetrocentric hyper masculinized lifeguard, who is plagued by fear of not impressing his father and Phil, played by Jack Mathews a new life guard who steals Lens glory in the competitive championships, butchering Lens ego on top of this Len discovers that Phil is gay after he sees him kissing a man. This spirals Len into a series of self-doubt and confusion about his masculinity and his sexuality as he finds himself attracted to Phil.

Being a life guard is part of Lens familial and national identity, his father and grandfather both preceding him were also champion lifeguards. He has grown up in a fiercely hetropatriarchal family with an abusive father. Lens has the perception that there is a strict gender and sexual binary coming from a homophobic background. Thus when he starts to have feelings for Phil he internalizes his homophobic gender and sexual ideology upon himself.

He deals with his confusion and anger with violence. Len takes his feelings out on Phil, beating him in the shower rooms. Phil’s face is badly bruised and beaten, it obvious to their boss that something has happened between them and tries to kick Len off the team, However Phil backs Len up with a sense of brotherly solidarity or Australian mateship (Davies). This confuses Len even more and his feelings run out of control ending up with a drug and alcohol crazed night out ending in extreme physical and sexual abuse toward Phil.

This is a very engrossing movie with a good depiction of the bullying, alienation and homophobia that goes on in western society and many competitive sports. However the film plays upon a stereotypical cliché of homoeroticism and from critical perspective the film demonstrates the unconscious racist undertones within the western film industry. The actors in the film are all white, accept in one club scene, where there is a representation of a typical racialized and sexualized stereotype of a gay Asian male. He was portrayed as being very femme gay man, thus seen to be not a true male. This could be seen as a form of Edward Said’s theory on orientalism (Said), where by people from the orient are ‘othered’ additionally he was feminized because of his sexuality thus he could be seen to have been characteristically fetishized, sexualized and racialized  by the ever watching western ‘gaze’ (Foucault).

In addition to the lack of racial diversity this the film shows only one type of man, albeit there was slight sexuality heterogeneity as it was the main theme of the film, however every other male was picture perfect of Audre Lorde’s ‘mythical norm’ (Lorde), including having very toned and muscular bodies which is an unrealistic ideal.

It is hard to focus on one key scene of the film because of the way the film was laid out, to add to the suspense of the film it jumped from and between scenes and time frames, which added to the emotional tension. The film screening took place in the screening room, surprisingly it was not a full house. Reel out were running a little late thus the screening time of Drown was late also. They were supposed to screen a short film before the screening of Drown, but it was broken. There was a small talk from an alumni of Queens speaking about his experiences of homosexuality and internalizing his own form homophobia within high level volleyball. His story was interesting and heart-warming. Of what I remember before the film there was an acknowledgement that we were sitting on the traditional lands of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples, helping us to understand out positionality within settler context however this could have been before ‘In the turn’. Sitting at the back of the theater was a bad idea, as people were running up and down the stairs behind our seats in addition the sound seemed a little echoed at the back of the theater. However since this was my third film out of the six that I had seen in the festival it was enjoyable to see some familiar faces from within the queer community


Davies, Glen. Australian Mateship. 7 May 2012. Webpage. 3 Febuary 2014. <,4109&gt;.

Drown. Dir. Dean Francis. Perf. Jack Mathews Matt levett. 2014. Cinema.

Foucault, Michel. Disapline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage Books, 1979. electronic resourse.

Lorde, Audre. Age, race, class and sex : women Redifining differance in Sister Outsider. Freedom: Crossing Press, 1984.

Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Vintage, 1994.

Film reveiw of 2015 Austrailian move ‘Drown’

3 thoughts on “Film reveiw of 2015 Austrailian move ‘Drown’

  1. piper125 says:

    Your film review was captivating and left me wanting to hear more about your opinions and analysis of the piece. From what I understand, this film aims to tackle the topic of internalized homophobia, how it arises from certain intersectionalities, and how it perpetuates itself through different positionalities. I loved that you mentioned that there was a near-homogenous racial and ethnic representation in the film, because that speaks volumes about how in-depth this piece was able to tackle the issue of internalized homophobia as a whole. Perhaps it was beyond the scope of the plot-line and critical analysis the director had in mind for the film, but I do think that the audience must understand that internalized homophobia arises and manifests itself in a variety of ways based on a multitude of factors, one of which is racial ethnicity. Thus, this film may paint an accurate picture of what internalized homophobia looks like within the milieu of a very specific demographic (white, middle-class, from within an athletic community), but not for all demographics. For example, a white man bred from generations of hyper-masculine and actively homophobic men may react differently to a realization of his own homosexual orientation, in contrast to an East-Asian man bred from generations of men who passively do not acknowledge homosexuality at all. That being said, I think it is interesting to note that an East Asian gay man was portrayed in a highly sexualized and fetishized manner, misrepresenting and generalizing a whole subculture within the gay population. Noting that the film is claiming to target issues pertaining to homosexuality and stigma associated with such, it is an ironic and classic example of “other-ing” when this film then perpetuates the stereotype of an Asian, gay man.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I genuinely enjoyed your analysis and am currently downloading the movie to hopefully formulate some more thoughts about the piece from my own observations!


  2. I really enjoyed reading your film review. You did a great job in clearly outlining the film’s summary while also including many factors that involve the film’s main themes including stereotypes, homosexuality, and identity. When reading your film review, I found myself wanting to learn more about your personal opinions, analysis and experience while watching the film.

    In your review, two main topics stood out for me. The first topic included the idea of the heteronormative stereotypes presented within the sports world. This is an interesting topic because sports is a huge industry. Many individuals, no matter their age, are involved in sports, whether through watching, playing or following sports. Thus, the sports business holds a lot of influential power in helping to shape people’s perceptions and beliefs when it comes to accepting anything but heternormativity within the sports industry. This makes it difficult for individuals like Len, who is an athlete and a homosexual. One wonders if over time the sports world will become more receptive to homosexuality and thus narrow the stereotypes of heternormativity?

    The second topic that stood out for me was in paragraph three when you stated, “This spirals Len into a series of self-doubt and confusion about his masculinity and his sexuality…” It is interesting to observe the use of self-doubt and confusion used to describe what Len is feeling. As in my film, Randy felt the same way. When one has to understand/find their sexuality, confusion is understandable, but it is interesting that self-doubt is commonly seen as well. In Len’s case, his self-doubt may be due to a combination of his hetropatriarchal family, abusive father and his role as an athlete. Factors may combine to contribute to Len’s self-doubt are outside factors that encourage him to fit with the norms and prevent him from being fully in touch with his sexuality. Len’s story inspires me to understand the struggles of self-doubt one experiences with accepting one’s sexuality and how society is producing a standard that is creating the feeling of doubt when the individual doesn’t fit societal norms.

    Drown seems like a very interesting movie. It is apparent that Francis has put thought into his choice of characters, images and sounds in creating for an intense, full and intriguing movie.


  3. redjr21 says:

    Your review of this film seems to be rather encompassing, giving a the reader a strong idea of what the film offers and portrays to the viewer. I like your comments about the atmosphere of the film, including the discussion of postionality of those who attended the film, as well as the attendance of the Queen’s alum who played for the volleyball team. This goes to show how considerate the film festival is, and that those who are involved in the festival are truly interested in making each screening meaningful for the viewers. I could only imagine that this made your viewing experience much greater.

    I also enjoyed your discussion of sports and masculinities. Sport seems to be a paramount element of hegemonic masculinity, as athleticism is a desired trait under this model. The relationship with sports and the LGBT community has been complicated; the NFL has only had one player openly come out (Michael Sam), and he was heavily castigated by the industry, and was ultimately cut from his team. Although one’s athleticism would seem to entail that they are masculine, it seems that there is no room for sexual diversity under a masculine model, whether this is enforced by a sports league, or fellow players, and your film review seems to illustrate this well.

    I am glad that someone went to see this film, as the trailer shown in class was somewhat graphic, but rather enticing – your review makes me even more interested in seeing the film!


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