Swimming With Men

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Swimming With Men will close EIFF on July 1
"While in plotting terms, the film pretty much stays in the lane you'd expect, it has plenty of heart." | Photo: Vertigo Releasing

You wait years for a film about middle-aged men synchronised swimming and then two appear, well, in synch. In fact, both the French production Sink Or Swim and British comedy drama Swimming With Men both have their roots in the same story of a group of Swedish men who decided to fight their crises by taking the plunge.

Screenwriter Aschlin Ditta reworks the British version into the well-worn feel-good British groove of The Full Monty, remembering that there a few things domestic audiences like better than an underdog.

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Rob Brydon, then, is perfect for the central role of Eric, an accountant, not least because he is a long way from the usual Hugh Grant type hero that usually acts as a focal point for these sorts of films (although Rupert Graves provides twinkle in support for women of a certain age).

Eric's life is less in a groove than stuck in a rut, not least because his marriage to wife Heather (Jane Horrocks) seems to have hit the doldrums just as she has found election success as a local councillor. With the fun balance in his life in the red, a chance encounter with an unlikely group of wannabe synchronised swimmers opens an opportunity to forget about his woes for a few hours a week.

The group is a typical selection of misfits, including ageing widower Ted (Jim Carter), divorcee Luke (Graves), young troublemaker Tom (Thomas Turgoose) and a handful of others (Adeel Akhtar, Daniel Mays, Chris Jepson and Ronan Daly), all of whom are not exactly like fish in the water. Despite this, more or less on a whim, they decide to aim for the world championships under the watchful eye of coach Susan (Charlotte Riley) and the stage is set for gentle comedy and the overcoming of diversity through friendship.

While in plotting terms, the film pretty much stays in the lane you'd expect, it has plenty of heart. Director Oliver Parker makes a decent step up here from the likes of St Trinian's, making intelligent choices about when to take his camera beneath the surface of the pool for comic or dramatic effect. Brydon, who is probably best known to international audiences for his sparring relationship with Steve Coogan in The Trip To Italy, reins in his usual ebullience and slips into the more conflicted persona of Eric with skill. Ditta, while leaving one or two characters on the sidelines - a deliberate choice nodded to by their names 'Silent Bob' and 'the New Boy' - also gets us well-invested in the sparky relationship between Tom and Ted.

Although it all gets a bit soggy at the end, with a decent joke hit-rate and a focus that puts the men's emotional journey ahead of the swimming competition, like the team at its heart, this film may not be the best in its field but it generates a lot of goodwill.

Reviewed on: 03 Jul 2018
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An accountant suffering from a mid-life crisis joins an all-male synchronised swimming team.
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If you like this, try:

The Full Monty
Grow Your Own
Sink Or Swim