Swimming with Men does exactly what it says on the tin. That’ s not always a good thing because in retrospect Lord Baden Powell is probably spinning in his grave after he titled his autobiography ‘Scouting for Boys’ but we digress. So the film features swimming and it is with men or at least Rob Brydon whose has a face that would not look out of place on Easter Island.
Brydon plays Eric Scott a senior accountant living in suburbia and wholly dissatisfied with his life – a monotonous job, a marriage that’s run its course, a wife more interested in her job as a councilor and him convinced that she’s having an affair – it’s classic mid life crisis stuff which made the TV series The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin a TV comedy masterpiece centred by the comic genius that Leonard Rossiter is but that Brydon isn’t. The first twenty minutes is brilliantly realised by director Oliver Parker with its moments of mid life isolation – surrounded by people yet terribly lonely . Every evening he goes swimming on his own and he returns home to his council job obsessed, career climbing wife Heather (the always great Jane Horrocks).
Convinced she is having an affair with another councilor he leaves the family home to stay in a hotel room finding solace in his swimming where he meets seven other men who are part of an all male amateur synchronized swimming club. Each have their own story but the first rule of swimming club is you do not talk about swimming club… or your private life which gives the film a get out clause to avoid diving into the characters background in any detail. Inevitably though their back stories will come to light but the problem with any ensemble film is how do you give everyone equal screen time and consequently there’s no real depth to any of their stories which are only touched on with one of the group is entirely silent until the very end where he spouts a single line truism like Kevin Smith’s Silent Bob.
Eventually it takes a female coach (Charlotte Riley) at their swimming pool to become their coach when her Swedish synchronized swimmer boyfriend challenges them to be the UK entry to the World Championships in a month’s time.
Based on a true story Swimming with Men is a looking to be The Full Monty even resorting to a Tom Jones over version (here’s it’s a dreadful cover of James Brown’s It’s a man’s, man’s, man’s world). Swimming with Men follows a near identical template with what are hoped for music highlights provided by the band Elbow with their suitably apt song ‘Grounds for Divorce’ and their masterful ‘One Day Like this’ which the film makers have used presumably thinking that if it was good enough to close the 2012 London Olympics then it’s good enough to close the film.
After an excellent first 20 minutes Swimming with Men falls back on a script template for this type of genre, so we have the training montage, the inspirational speech at a time of crisis, and the frustrated love story. Brydon aside, who mercifully is allowed no opportunity to trot out his stock impressions of Michael Caine and Tom Jones, this has a great cast of known faces but unknown names. So whilst Jim Carter from Downton Abbey is well known the other faces you’ll recognize from a wide range of TV shows. Swimming with Men is not The Full Monty that the makers hoped for and Brydon is not really leading man material in a feature film but is ably supported by a highly capable cast even if it can’t avoid the clichés.
Here’s the Swimming with Men trailer…….