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Swimming With Men
3/5
dir Oliver Parker
scr Aschlin Ditta
prd Stewart Le Marechal, Anna Mohr-Pietsch, Maggie Monteith
with Rob Brydon, Rupert Graves, Jim Carter, Daniel Mays, Adeel Akhtar, Thomas Turgoose, Jane Horrocks, Charlotte Riley, Nathaniel Parker, Spike White, Christian Rubeck, Chris Jepson
release UK 6.Jul.18
18/UK 1h37
Swimming With Men
Teamwork: Graves, Brydon and Turgoose

carter mays akhtar
EDINBURGH FILM FEST
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Swimming With Men A British crowd-pleaser, this Full Monty-style comedy has a terrific cast of actors up for the challenge of playing middle-aged swimmers. So even if the script is relentlessly simplistic, hitting all of the usual plot points like clockwork, the characters are so engaging that it's difficult to remain cynical. Thankfully, the filmmakers avoid most cliches and keep the melodrama under control.

Amid his grinding day-to-day life as an accountant, Eric (Brydon) suspects his wife (Horrocks) is having an affair. In a funk, he's adopted by a bunch of similar middle-aged sad sacks (Graves, Carter, Mays, Akhtar and youngster Turgoose) at his local pool as they gather weekly to support each other and practice synchronised swimming. Then they hear about the male world championships in Milan, and since Britain doesn't have a team they decide to go for it, hiring a trainer (Riley). But they know they don't have a chance of beating the unstoppable Swedish crew.

The is loosely based on the real experiences of the Swedish swimmers, who play themselves here, adding a spark to the otherwise unambitious story. Much of the set-up feels generic, from each of the Brits' occupations to their little personal dramas, a gentle romance and some understated comments about sexuality. But there are terrific sequences in between the usual training montages, and the underwater camerawork is superb. Also, the side-plots are mercifully brief and to-the-point, while the central crisis is solved in about 30 seconds.

Brydon plays a man who is very easy to root for. Battered by the tedium of his life, his situation resonates easily, as does his journey to embrace the positive things around him. Brydon also injects sharp-edged gags in to most scenes, as do others in the high-powered cast. Graves, Carter, Mays, Turgoose and Akhtar all get great moments of their own. Riley has a lot of fun playing in the boys' pool, and Horrocks gets a rare chance to underplay a dramatic role.

Where all of this goes is never surprising, although there are a few welcome twists on the usual formula. The main joy here is seeing these men performing a series of rather amusing manoeuvres in the water while bonding both in the pool and in the pub. Parker's direction feels as effortless as Ditta's screenplay, so the film is no trouble at all to watch. Indeed, its gently loping pace and mildly amusing tone keeps the audience smiling happily all the way through.

cert 12 themes, language 9.May.18

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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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