Film Review – ‘Swimming With Men’ (2018)

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Release date: Out NOW in cinemas
Rating: [rating=3]

Loosely based on the true underdog story of a group of middle-aged men who formed a synchronised swimming team, this British comedy doesn’t fully deliver on its promising premise, but ultimately stays afloat thanks to the chemistry between its cast, especially its leading man.

There’s an undeniable charm about Swimming with Men, as a group of predominantly middle-aged misfits form a synchronised swim team and develop a lasting bromance along the way. The story follows Eric Scott (Rob Brydon), a miserable accountant whose Groundhog Day-style life sees him basically repeat the same meaningless existence over and over without end. Painfully aware that something is missing in his life, a chance encounter offers him his unlikely purpose and a chance to discover what he’s really made of.

In this age of Hollywood beefcakes and super-ripped heartthrobs, there’s something refreshing about seeing a range of prominent British actors proudly putting their natural bodies on show, taking part in a sport that’s far from the manliest. ‘I thought they would be girls,’ comments one character on sight of the enthusiastic lads in their speedos and trunks. Watching Swimming with Men you really want the filmmakers to push this boldness to its limits, but it’s frustratingly timid in places, with an over reliance on familiar gags instead of capitalising on its concept.

It leads to a story that’s somewhat short on genuine surprises, with Eric’s supporting team feeling under-served. Downton Abbey’s Jim Carter and This is England 90’s Thomas Turgoose do manage to shine, but we don’t get as invested in the rest of their team, which makes it harder to care about their successes to the extent that we should.

Brydon’s Eric definitely steals many of the film’s best moments, as the stiff, repressed accountant. As if his work life wasn’t bad enough, his marriage with Heather (Jane Horrocks) is becoming strained and he feels threatened by one of her colleagues. He’s something of an embarrassment to his son. Eric is a man who quietly hates his life, but is too strait-laced and mild-mannered to even get a mid-life crisis right.

Brydon brings great humour and likeability to the role, turning Eric into a loveable loser who discovers a tougher, more reckless side through the most unlikely of pastimes. The resolution comes a little too easily and would have been strengthened by a few more obstacles along the way, but it’s saved by Brydon’s infectious enthusiasm and the rewarding sense that his character has truly come full circle.

Ultimately Swimming with Men doesn’t quite pull off everything it attempts to, but for fans of British film looking for something different to the usu,al Hollywood fare it’s still a largely entertaining comedy that’s worth a watch.

Alex Straker

Comedy, Drama | UK, 2018 | 15 | 6th July 2018 (UK) | Vertigo Releasing | Dir.Oliver Parker | Charlotte Riley, Rupert Graves, Jane Horrocks, Rob Brydon, Adeel Akhtar, Thomas Turgoose, Daniel Mays