Reviewed by: Ruth Eshuis
Mid-life crisis in men
Striving for personal growth
Overcoming fear / fear of failure
Marital relationship and conflicts
Father and son relationship
|Featuring:||Rob Brydon … Eric Scott
Rupert Graves … Luke
Thomas Turgoose … Tom
Adeel Akhtar … Kurt
Jim Carter … Ted
Daniel Mays … Colin
Ronan Daly … New Guy
Chris Jepson … Silent Bob
Spike White … Billy
Nathaniel Parker … Lewis
Jane Horrocks … Heather Scott
Denise Stephenson … Tipsy Woman
Robert Daws … Michael Blore
Harry Demmon … Stewart
Charlotte Riley … Susan
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|Producer:||Met Film Production [Great Britain]
Shoebox Films [Great Britain]
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“A protest against the meaninglessness of life”
A middle-aged British accountant named Eric (Rob Brydon) has a good job and a loving family but has become increasingly disillusioned and wants to escape. During his daily swim he enjoys hiding at the bottom of the pool, just for a moment of other-worldly peace. It is here that he meets the swim team. But this isn’t any ordinary swim team. It’s an amateur synchronized swimming squad composed entirely of men just like Eric, jokingly referred to as “aching agagingeing alcoholics” by one of its members. They try to convince him to commit to their team and train for the world championships. Meanwhile Eric’s family are struggling with his odd behavior.
Will joining the team only make things worse? Will his marriage turn a corner before it’s too late? Will the squad be able to overcome their fears and failures to cooperate and compete?
This feel-good flick has vast appeal for adult viewers. Audiences exclaim over the beautiful and intelligent cinematography from the very first scenes and one feels they are witnessing masterful story-telling. This helps viewers to join wholeheartedly in moments of sorrow and joy. Without needing many words, the film smoothly addresses mental health issues and feelings of anxiety, failure, lostness and a need to somehow ‘win’ at life again. The serious subject matter is lightened with plenty of humor, sport and friendly encouragement. It does have a fun mood to it.
Good role modeling occurs in the context of teamwork under pressure. Many differences that could cause conflicts are reworked to assist towards the greater purpose. The men step up to show maturity and loyalty. Stereotyping and fears of stigma are challenged. One character courageously refuses to perform illegal work, though doing this risks loss of employment. Marriages are valued and fought for.
Despite the many strengths of “Swimming with Men,” serious concerns need to be considered.
It begins with a distinct sense of ‘drowning’ (metaphorically) which soon eases, however immorality continues to drag down the final product. The main problems are the profanities, nudity and drinking. I counted 15 strong curse words (c*nt, f-words, sh*t); 16 misuses of the names of God and Jesus and 21 milder swear words. Once there is an offensive hand gesture. These alone are enough for me to not recommend the film to a friend.
Other concerning or triggering factors include the minor references to suicide (joking), drugs (including implied use by a schoolboy) and sex-life. There’s also a scene involving a children’s birthday party and some fecal matter floating on a pool’s surface. Some inappropriate flirtation occurs in 3 situations: in a friendship with a person who is already partnered, resulting in a change of partners; from a boss towards his emotionally vulnerable female employee, whom he seems to be seducing despite her being married; and winks are exchanged between complete strangers (both male).
For comedic effect the camera lingers on bodies in the men’s shower room, especially torsos and rears, and at one point a man is shown carefully toweling between his legs. However, genitalia are never seen, swimwear is nearly always discrete and bodies are not idolized.
To some degree the presence of crime in the film is unavoidable given that it’s based on a true story, but crime and misbehavior are poorly dealt with by the writers. Theft is a key part of a main character’s life. Police are often seen chasing this person, and the team only treat such authorities with respect when it suits them. A person talks of wanting to punch someone, and later actually does it.
Beer and wine are consumed often and in large amounts. A character treats his alcohol supply as though it’s his most precious possession and someone gives 8 bottles of wine away to people who are sleeping on the streets.
Overall, this is a disappointingly high amount of concerning content.
“Swimming with Men” is largely a film about overcoming a ‘midlife crisis’ when one feels lost and that life is meaningless. This reminds Christians of wise King Solomon who cried out, “Meaningless, meaningless. Everything is meaningless!” before he concluded that meaning is only found in seeking and honoring God, because this is what we are made for (Ecclesiastes 12). Bible-lovers may also hear echoes of the Apostle Paul’s description of the spiritual state of man “…Without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 12:2) before meeting their rescuer Jesus.
The transformation that then takes place in Eric also mirrors aspects of Christian life after coming to know Jesus: the humbling stage (repentance), joy of being welcomed, development of intimate relationships and teamwork (Church) and bright new hope that redefines and energizes an identity.
What is HUMILITY? and WHY is it important to be humble? Answer
Another obvious connection with how Jesus works in our lives is that in the movie a character hears a ‘call’—as though it’s the voice of God—at a desperate moment. The voice commands to “Let yourself go,” because the offer of salvation must be humbly accepted to become effective. This is what happens in our encounter with God, too.
But sadly, that is where the similarities end, as the ‘call’ that is depicted does not result in any movement towards God. In fact, “Swimming with Men” completely ignores the existence of God and doesn’t even mention religion or faith.
Surely this comedic drama about water-dance would be suitable for teens? No. Many dangerous temptations and wrong ideas lie just beneath the surface, and I strongly feel that overall the damaging influences outweigh any enjoyment.
Is it recommendable for adults? Perhaps, but only with a specific purpose. You see, the tale itself is interesting, funny and valuable, but as a movie the frequent use of strong language and disrespect for God ruins it and by the end a Believer will be struggling to smile at all. However, I can see that if you are forced to attend, some value could be obtained by use of this film to raise faith issues with nonbelievers.
My personal experience was of being able to enjoy parts like the artistic shots, affectionate joking and team building. I also appreciated the insights related to men’s health and the largely-unknown world of men’s synchronized swimming, but the constant involvement of excessive drinking, bad language and immorality force me to advise that saving the pennies for another rainy day will prove wiser in the long run.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.