Film Reviews

Swimming With Men Review: Dir. Oliver Parker (2018)

If you’re in the mood for a reliable, almost predictable, British comedy then director Oliver Parker is your guy. The man behind St. Trinian’s, Johnny English Reborn, and the Dad’s Army big screen adaptation, he’s back, this time showing us that synchronised swimming isn’t just for women…

Eric Scott (Rob Brydon) is experiencing his own mid-life crisis. Bored of his accounting job, he spends his days staring out of his office window, waiting for 6pm, heading home to Heather (Jane Horrocks), his distracted wife, and moody teenage son. He hasn’t got a lot to offer life, and life hasn’t got much to give back to him.

Before arriving home one evening, Eric stops off at his local pool to swim off the stress of his boredom. Whilst underwater, he seems to start hallucinating, seeing a group of men in Speedos sitting on the bottom, all capped and goggled. Eric’s eyes weren’t deceiving him because on surfacing he spots them forming pretty patterns together, waving arms and legs around, and having a laugh. It turns out this is his local all-male, middle-aged, amateur synchronised swimming team, and Eric soon becomes its newest member. With dreams of entering the world championship, can Eric’s teammates reinvigorate him and stop him from sinking further?

Brydon is joined by a strong supporting cast – Jim Carter, Thomas Turgoose, Daniel Mays, Rupert Graves, Adeel Akhtar, and Charlotte Riley, the team’s enthusiastic coach. Every character brings their own ‘origin story’ to the team, including Brydon’s Eric and his wavering mental health, connecting them all on a deeper level. That’s one of the best elements of Swimming With Men; the characters’ obvious vulnerability and flaws. Divorce, heartbreak, grief, a criminal record – each of them has something to reveal to the rest, leaving them feeling weak and open.

Seeing them support each other through the trials and tribulations of training, whilst tackling their own personal matters, is a refreshing take on male bonding, something we don’t see often in cinema. With times continuing to change, it’s heartening to see a British comedy that strips away typical ‘toxic masculinity’, replacing it with genuine friendship, support, and teamwork.

Full of one-liners, lots of physical comedy (it’s six men around a swimming pool, so someone’s guaranteed to be pushed in), and laughs that land (mostly), this is a lighthearted spin on the friendship comedy sub-genre we normally associate with a female focus (think Bridesmaids).

Swimming With Men shows that it’s okay for a story about men to be funny and touching, bringing a softer side to British (male) comedy. While it won’t be making a huge splash (I’m sorry) in terms of changing the genre, it’s a fun way to spend 90 minutes.

Swimming With Men is released in UK cinemas on 6th July.

Want to try your hand at a new swimming venture whilst doing something for a worthy cause? Sign up to this year’s Aspire Channel Swim and help make a difference to the lives of those suffering with spinal cord injury: www.aspirechannelswim.co.uk. Time to find your inner champion!

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