The main word in the title of director Bette Gordon’s sleek psychological thriller, “The Drowning,” is transformed from a noun to a verb as her characters revisit a decade-old, horrific crime. Photographed in wide screen by ace cinematographer Radium Chung, with just the right mix of the quotidian and the creepy (and the creepily quotidian), lovely New London, CT, becomes a place of menace.
Tom Seymour (Josh Charles, in a perfectly calibrated performance), a forensic psychologist, a specialist in violent children, and his wife Lauren Seymour (Julia Styles) have recently moved into an elegant older house (raised paneling, stained glass, a large porch). It’s an ideal place for Tom to write, and his mother lives nearby, but with Lauren’s painting career under water, she’s eager to spend more time in New York. She tells Tom (Styles has a great smoky voice), “New York is fun. New London is cloudy.”
As they’re walking by the river, a young man, fully clothed, throws himself into the water and without hesitation, Tom runs in to save him and is almost dragged under. Visiting the would be suicide in the hospital, Tom is unnerved when he reveals his identity, Danny Miller (Avan Jogia), whom Tom had helped put in juvie at 11, for the murder of an elderly woman. Danny also spent time in an adult prison and newly released, renamed Ian Wilkinson, wants unusual contact with his parole officer, Angela (Tracie Toms) and Tom, who refuses to be Danny’s therapist.
Seeking exoneration but displaying qualities of a sociopath, Danny makes unwelcome visits to Tom home and office, trying to insinuate himself into both his professional and personal lives. Lauren who repeatedly runs into “Ian” finds him charming–Tom is legally prohibited from revealing Danny’s true identity to anyone–which with his cleverness, lanky frame and floppy hair (and Jogia’s more than slight resemblance to the young Skeet Ulrich, who resembled Johnny Depp), he is.
Tom, deeply ambivalent about his past and current interactions with Danny (and determined to protect Lauren), seeks out Angus MacDonald who had taught creative writing at Windsor Juvenile Detention Center. He warns Tom that Danny is violent, “crazed with talent, but a black hole.” Sucked in by more than a professional interest in Danny’s behavior, Tom is discovering a darkness in his own psyche, and a growing willingness to act.
“The Drowning” will be available on iTunes on Thursday, June 1.