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Byron Shire
March 6, 2021

Cinema Reviews: Swimming With Men

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The potential for this movie to drown in silliness was frightening. The idea that eight blokes, all of whom are a bit long in the tooth and not buffed like Adonis, would be involved in synchronised swimming might not make you want to rush to the cinema, but like the Jamaican bob-sledders, they pull it off and manage to elate you at the end. In 2003, a bunch of Swedes (they appear in the final scene) formed a synchronised swimming group to ‘escape the meaninglessness of life’. They won the sport’s first unofficial world championship and inspired the Londoners of Oliver Parker’s joyful film. The central character, Eric (Rob Brydon), is not immediately likeable. He is bored in his high-end accountancy job and resentful of his wife’s election to local council. Wrongly believing that she is having an affair, he acts like a dickhead and moves into a rented room. At the local pool where he swims regularly – remember how at the beginning of ‘The Graduate’, Dustin Hoffman’s Ben escaped his stultifying environment by lying at the bottom of the family pool? – he meets up with the synchronisers who take him in as one of theirs. The underwater photography is fantastic, with all of the actors rather than doubles executing most of the moves. Despite being the protagonist, Eric never manages to earn your total sympathy, but among his mates there is somebody we can all identify with. The will-he or won’t-he? romance between one of the swimmers and their trainer is a subtle hook, as is the fear of failure that consumes another. You know where the story is headed, but sometimes you desperately crave that happy, cheesy ending. With darkness descending all around us, it is fortifying to be reminded of how people can connect and help each other through their travails. In the film’s light-hearted profundity and gloriously unembarrassed conclusion, there is enough to make you keen to get out of bed in the morning and take on whatever comes along.

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