Movie review by
Stephanie Myers, Common Sense Media
Drowning Movie Poster Image
Sleepy drama about mom's grief over deployed son.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 82 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

It's OK to be sad, and it's OK to not have the answers and just want someone to listen. Know that you can find help and others who are going through similar situations. You don't have to face things on your own.  

Positive Role Models

Rose's swim instructor Henry is extremely patient. He reminds her each lesson that she'll learn to swim and makes her feel comfortable and praised with each small accomplishment. He continually tells her that he has her and he won't let go until she's ready.


Yelling and shouting between main character Rose and her boyfriend, Frank. Flashback to an argument with yelling and screaming between Rose and her son (no visuals). Another flashback includes Rose's daughter yelling and upset about an event that happened, but it's never actually said what that event is (and, again, no visuals -- just audible content).


Two characters kiss and sleep in the same bed. A woman wears a cleavage-revealing shirt.


Occasional use of words including "f--k," "s--t, "f--king," etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A character smokes a cigarette while drinking alcohol. It's insinuated that she has had the whole bottle because it's empty; she then vomits into the toilet. The main character talks about her son using drugs and putting needles in his arms.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Drowning centers on a woman named Rose (Melora Walters, who also wrote and directed) who's so emotionally tied to her children’s well-being that she's unable to live her own life. This may be difficult for younger viewers to relate to or really understand. Rose's son is in the military, and she talks about being concerned about him dying. And whenever she's in her car, she listens to news reports about the war in Iraq. The discussions of death, war, and killings may be a little scary for younger kids. There are also scenes of Rose struggling in the water and almost drowning. The characters occasionally use words like "f--k," "s--t," "f--ked up," etc. Characters talk about drug use, and one is shown drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. There are some positive messages, including that it's OK to be sad and grieve for your children and that it's OK to not have the answers and just want someone to listen. The film also suggests that's important to find people who are going through a similar situation so that you don’t have to go through challenges alone.

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What's the story?

DROWNING follows Rose (Melora Walters) as she deals with the grief, anxiety, and depression brought on by her son's deployment to Irag. Rose's daughter is also away at college, which adds to her worry. In fact, Rose's life is so controlled by her anxiety and fears for her children's safety that when her boyfriend, Frank (Gil Bellows), wants to travel to another country, Rose refuses on the grounds that one of her kids might need her. Her job at a local bookstore does provide some solace as she's able to get support and have conversations with her friend, Mary (Mira Sorvino), and other coworkers without revealing too much of her fears. Rose is also afraid of the water and drowning but decides to confront those fears by learning how to swim. Her instructor Henry (Jay Mohr) is determined to teach her to swim but is also supportive and patient, making sure that she's comfortable and only moving as fast as she's ready for. Understanding that she's struggling to keep afloat in the deep end, Rose tries different support groups, with little success. Eventually, she decides that one-on-one therapy may be the best route to deal with her depression and anxiety. During a session, Rose's therapist asks her what will happen after her son comes home and her daughter graduates from college and they start their own families -- something she hasn't considered. Ultimately Rose must decide whether she'll learn how to move forward into unknown waters and create a life outside of her children or end up drowning in sadness, depression, anxiety, and grief.

Is it any good?

This glimpse into the life of a mother who's figuratively drowning in grief and sadness is a bit slow and somewhat disjointed. While Drowning does do a nice job of showing how a parent can get so anxious about their children's well-being that they lose themselves, the movie's pacing, along with minimal to no interaction between Rose and other characters, makes this rather short film seem to drag. It's unclear what the backstory is regarding Rose's relationships with her son and daughter -- and how her son went from using drugs to joining the military. Rose also keeps apologizing to her son, so viewers don’t understand what, other than him joining the military, caused to her to focus all her attention on making sure that he and her daughter are safe.

Parents, especially those whose family members have been deployed, may be able to relate to some of the emotions that Rose is going through. And despite its faults, Drowning has worthy things to say about accepting sadness, coming to terms with what you can control, and understanding that people can drown in their own depression and anxiety if they don’t reach out for support.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Drowning shows a parallel between Rose drowning in sorrow/grief and her fears around literally drowning in water. How does each stage in her swimming lessons correlate to how she's dealing with her anxiety and grief?

  • What audience do you think this film was made for? How can you tell?

  • Rose seeks out several different support groups to help her adjust to her her son's deployment. Each time she's disappointed and doesn't return. Does she appear to do have better success in one-on-one therapy? Why does the therapist suggest going back and trying a support group?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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