'Swimming with Men': Edinburgh Review

By Ide, Wendy | Screen International, July 1, 2018 | Go to article overview

'Swimming with Men': Edinburgh Review


Ide, Wendy, Screen International


Synchronised swimming comedy closes the 2018 Edinburgh Film Festival

‘Swimming With Men’

Dir. Oliver Parker. UK. 2018. 97 mins

A mismatched, and in some cases slightly misshapen, group of men find support and a sense of purpose after squeezing into their speedos and forming a male synchronised swimming team. This latest in the ‘personal growth through gentle humiliation’ genre is amiable enough, but does suffer from the over-familiarity of themes and plot-points. Rob Brydon, in the central role of Eric, a depressive accountant intent on sabotaging his life and marriage, creates a character so initially abrasive that he actively repels our sympathy, like water from the feathers of a duck. We warm to him eventually, but not, perhaps, as much as we need to achieve the feelgood ending Swimming With Men is aiming for.

The team are, it has to said, not always buoyed up by writing that relies on archetypes rather than fleshed out characters

Films which take as their central device same-sex groups of British people exposing themselves have traditionally done rather well at the domestic box office. However, it is hard to imagine that Swimming With Men will match the performances of the pictures it most closely resembles. It lacks the earthy Northern raunch of The Full Monty or the sassy star power of Calendar Girls. Still, given an aggressive marketing campaign, UK distributors Vertigo could hope for reasonable numbers.

Inspiration for the film comes from the documentary Men Who Swim (2010) which followed a group of middle-aged Swedish men in their conquest of the world of synchronised swimming. In Stewart Le Maréchal, the two films share a producer; there is also a kinship in a sense of general malaise and mediocrity combated by splashing about in unison in chlorinated water. Gilles Lelouche’s more nuanced comedy Sink Or Swim, on precisely the same subject matter, premiered at Cannes wherre it drew warm reviews and may drench international prospects for Swimming With Men.

After tackling Dad’s Army, director Oliver Parker seems to be cornering the market in films about middle-aged men who are pushed outside of their comfort zones. …

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