Swimming Upstream


Reviewed by: Darren Amner

Based on a true story, this is a compelling and inspirational tale about a young man from a troubled family who finds the inner strength to become a champion. Jesse Spencer plays Tony Fingelton, who only ever wanted his father's love, but, neglected, all he could do was follow his heart and his own sense of happiness.

Geoffrey Rush eerily portrays Harold Fingelton, Tony's father, whose mood swings affect the lives of his family. Dishing out tough love results in his children trying their utmost to gain his approval by excelling in sports.

Both Tony and his brother John (Tim Draxl) show great potential in the local swimming pool, John with freestyle and Tony for backstroke. Tony has always been afraid of his father, but could never do anything to please him and so decides to make something of himself. He becomes a fighter, who never gives up, and swimming is his ticket out.

The performances are excellent, with Spencer conveying the emotions and suffering Tony endures admirably and Rush, as his alcoholic, abusive father is wonderful. Harold's scathing hateful verbal battering of Tony is both tragic and upsetting to watch. In one scene, he tells Tony that he wished he didn't exist. Tony is mortified and seeks solace in the one place he feels safe, the pool.

Judy Davis plays his long suffering mother, who continues to witness her husband lashing out at the family she cares so dearly for, which causes a rivalry between Tony and John that threatens to tear them apart. She gives a restrained performance, which works well on an emotional level.

Director Russell Mulcahy's style owes a lot to his background in music videos. He uses split screens, dissolves and transitions to capture the action in the water. These scenes are exciting and dynamic and cut to a pulse-pounding beat.

Swimming Upstream is film about a transformation, a journey where the audience witnesses a quiet, bullied, mild mannered child turn into a level headed leader. Tony may come first in all his championship swimming contests, but will always be second in his father's estimation.

An uplifting film that has you routing for Tony all the way, no matter what the obstacle.

Reviewed on: 21 Jun 2005
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Drama, based on the true-life story of Aussie swimmer Tony Fingleton.
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Director: Russell Mulcahy

Writer: Anthony Fingleton, based on the book by Anthony Fingleton and Diane Fingleton

Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis, Jesse Spencer, Tim Draxl, David Hoflin, Craig Horner, Brittany Byrnes, Deborah Kennedy

Year: 2003

Runtime: 114 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: Australia


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