Drowning by Numbers

As usual, Peter Greenaway, helped by Sacha Vierny's cinematography, offers an eyeful, as well as a series of conceptual brainteasers, in this odd 1988 tale about three women—a grandmother, mother, and granddaughter, all named Cissy Colpitts—who drown their respective husbands. But beyond a certain point, this English black comedy becomes so reductive and predictable it might as well be called “Filming by Numbers.” Greenaway's fascination with numbers and his obsession with sagging middle-aged male flesh proceed as if by rote. Not even the talents of actors Joan Plowright, Bernard Hill, Juliet Stevenson, Joely Richardson, and Jason Edwards can breathe life into the film's smarmy conceits, informed here by a hint of misogyny that makes the banter seem especially heartless. 118 min.

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