Drowning by Numbers (1988)

R  |   |  Comedy, Drama  |  June 1991 (USA)
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Reviews: 29 user | 20 critic

Tired of her husband's philanderous ways, the mother of two daughters drowns her husband. With the reluctant help of the local coroner, the murder is obscured. Her daughters are having ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jason Edwards ...
Bryan Pringle ...
Trevor Cooper ...
John Rogan ...
Paul Mooney ...
Jane Gurnett ...
Kenny Ireland ...
Jonah Bognor
Michael Percival ...
Moses Bognor
Joanna Dickens ...
Janine Duvitski ...
Marina Bellamy


Tired of her husband's philanderous ways, the mother of two daughters drowns her husband. With the reluctant help of the local coroner, the murder is obscured. Her daughters are having similar problems with relationships, and tend to follow their mother's example, and the coroner becomes reluctantly duplicitous. As the plot progresses, visual and spoken numbers appear in the scenes, counting from one to 100. Written by Ed Sutton <esutton@mindspring.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The great death game.


Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for numerous scenes of nudity and sensuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

June 1991 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Conspiración de mujeres  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


$424,773 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The runner throwing streamers as he runs along is actually based on a real, popular game in England also known as 'Paper Chase' A.K.A 'Hare And Hounds': with the runner (Hare) leaving streamers in his wake just as a hare leaves a scent, as such the hounds will track him down based on the streamers (scent). See more »


Cissie Colpitts 1: The flies are settling on him.
Madgett: Well, shoo them off. Use a newspaper.
Cissie Colpitts 1: Madgett, I'm in need of legal aid, not a flyswatter.
See more »


References Viridiana (1961) See more »


2nd Movement of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra K354
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (as Mozart)
Performed by Alexander Balanescu (violin) and Jonathan Carney (viola)
See more »

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User Reviews

Quirky, eccentric, engaging
5 November 1998 | by (Budapest) – See all my reviews

I was ready to shut this movie off during the opening credits. A young girl skips rope as she names the stars in the cadence of her count 13-Rigel, 14- get it? Now you'd think most filmmakers would pick up this little symbol at a point near its end, but not Peter Greenaway. We see the whole count. I nearly fell asleep before the movie title appeared.

I'm glad I didn't. This is one weird movie, but a charming entertainment. The counting to 100 in the rope-jump prefigures the appearance of the numbers one through a hundred in sequence throughout the movie. It's fun after a while to see if you can spot them or to predict their appearance.

The plot, such as it is, centers around three women with the same name who all drown their husbands, with the assistance of the coroner, an inveterate gamesman. The other main character is the coroner's bizarre number-obsessed son, who narrates, and actually does most of the numbering that marks the progress of the film. The main characters are all utterly amoral.

Does the plot really matter? It's a black comedy, and a puzzle. The people are real, but they aren't. "The play's the thing". The film is odd and personal. I loved it. You may not. It reminded me of TV's famous "The Prisoner".

Peter Greenaway wrote and directed. The script is dryly amusing. The visual presentation is poetic and rich with symbols. The camera angles are unusual, befitting the material photographed. The landscape is ethereal, not unlike Prospero's Island in Greenaway's The Tempest. Except maybe for Zefferelli, nobody creates a richer texture of visual imagery.

For me, the only disappointment was an unsatisfying ending. I guess this was how it had to end. I couldn't come up with a better solution to the puzzle, but I wanted the characters to fare better than they did, and the fate of the boy-narrator seemed unduly harsh.

Still and all, it was Greenaway's game, and that's how he played it. I'm not sure why anyone financed this film, because the potential audience is small.

But I sure liked it.

17 of 22 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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