Exeter, Devon UK • May 22, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Screen Review: Swimming with Men

Review: Swimming with Men

5 mins read
Written by

Oliver Parker’s Swimming with Men follows Eric Scott, played by Rob Brydon, as he navigates a mid-life crisis. Eric feels lost and consequently seeks new meaning in his life which, until encountering some middle-aged men doing synchronised swimming – who rescue him from the bottom of the pool, like saviours – lacked fulfilment. Deciding to join in with the the amateur synchronised swimming team, Eric begins to find who he is again; discovering purpose with fellow men going through similar predicaments in their lives.

Swimming with Men is certainly a light-hearted, warm film that you should dive into; but maybe keep the training session to 96 minutes. Parker’s film easily passes the six-laugh test. It riffs off various comedic sporting films including Cool Runnings, containing a similar determination to succeed; as well as playing on Fincher’s Fight Club: “first rule of swim club?” “No one talks about swim club.” Whilst joking with the fact that they are male synchronised swimmers – rather than the expected female team, decked out in red lipstick and pedicures – the sentiment of the film does not rely on the comedic aspect of this relative ridiculousness. Yes, most of the laughs came out of the fact that some hairy men are synchronised swimming, but this is not the moral. Instead, there is a genuine feel of comradery that these men, no matter what their backgrounds, are not alone in the world, and that their struggle with loss and stress is OK. Every Thursday evening, they can escape the pressures of relationships, children, work, and even the law to perfect their impeccably calculated shapes in the pool.

‘Swimming with Men is certainly a light-hearted, warm film that you should dive into; but maybe keep the training session to 96 minutes’

In fact, Swimming with Men has pretty beautiful, aesthetic sets, probably because of the lovely wide-angle shots of the pastel blue swimming pool (think Submarine; but nowhere as sad). Underwater shots are crystal clear, with all noise (literally and figurately) leaving the space, providing the peace to think and be yourself. This is exactly what synchronised swimming becomes for the men: a peaceful space where thoughts have clarity. A note of caution though: this film likes a time lapse, to the point where it becomes a bit too cliché. You’ve got your customary man-walks-solemnly-through-busy-crowd time-lapse as the opening shot – a motif that appears a few times throughout the film. This, placed with the busy office time-lapses, makes the originality flail a little. The overall concept of swimming with men remains quirky and amusing but the narrative is rather undeveloped – despite revealing a few aspects of different characters, not enough is explored.

Swimming with Men is, if anything else, uplifting. Albeit, the ending may be a bit much, but the sentiment is charming and even enchanting at times. Sometimes you’ll catch yourself being delighted by the slow movements in the weightless water, the bubbles floating slowly around them, and forget that you’re not in the water with them.

‘The narrative easily falls out of your memory as soon as you see it, but the swimming sequences linger a little longer, providing a giggle while you sit in your office a week or so later’

There is one underlying concern, though: it highlights the double standards within synchronised swimming – not only with men, but with women too. Men do not have the pressure and expectation to wear make-up and be perfectly groomed like the women. And yet, men who do synchronised swimming are laughed at for being feminine and not masculine; they’re not seen as doing a “manly” or even “proper” sport. However, this is not what the film is overly absorbed by. In fact, roles are reversed not only with the male synchronised swimmers but also with their leader and coach: a woman (Charlotte Riley) who not only believes in their talents but, most importantly, their vulnerabilities. Ultimately, Swimming with Men is not a film with an exceedingly political message, but an entertaining, heartening story.

Swimming with Men is probably exactly what you would expect from the title: a funny (but sadly forgettable) film. The narrative easily falls out of your memory as soon as you see it, but the swimming sequences linger a little longer, providing a giggle while you sit in your office a week or so later. Rob Brydon is perfectly good in the lead role and plays it in a similar way to Nick Frost in Cuban Fury: slightly quirky, and unexpectedly nifty in heeled salsa shoes (or flippers). If you need a giggle, though, it’s the one for you – just don’t forget your goggles because you may end up joining in.

Catch Swimming with Men in cinemas from 6th July.

 

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