Swimming with Men ensemble comedy about an all-male synchronised swimming team is an already inherently absurd concept, adding established comedians and actors boosts the film with a buoyant story. Starring an array of known actors; Rob Brydon, Rupert Graves, Charlotte Riley and others, there is a surprising depth to the characters given the large cast, not without some exceptions. The relationships the characters build and their fear of middle-aged life drives the film, to the point where the comedy is more nuanced than expected from the genre. A refreshingly relaxed paced comedy, opting for the weird and wonderful over cheap gags.
Rob Brydon leads as Eric Scott, an accountant in the midst of a mid-life crisis unable to connect with his wife, son or job. He takes time out to swim in the local pool where he meets the synchronised swimmers led by Luke (Rupert Graves). The team and its members are dysfunctional, dealing with their own problems as middle-aged men, but with strict rules against discussing their personal problems and just focus on swimming. It doesn’t take too long before this rule is ignored of course but successfully avoids being a total pity party. In one scene the, mostly white, men reminisce about Britain’s glory days of the Empire, while the only minority member Kurt (Adeel Akhtar) looks on before the conversations steers back to swimming and away from the politics of Empire.
The plot is formulaic to say the least, as the amateur team are entered into a competition with nothing but gumption and the military style training by their informal coach played by Charlotte Riley; comically floundering as they practice somersaults, spins and dives for their routine. It’s all unintentionally hilarious with humour that takes its cues from the men's everyday life, such as one of the more dramatic scenes when the team are all in a conference call where one member Tom (Thomas Turgoose) is making a great escape from the police.
Where most films would fail to deliver a convincing story, Swimming with Men delivers by having a cast that feels very comfortable with each other. The team feels very natural and tight-knit before Eric enters the scene, as they joke and celebrate their friendships. The cliché of rival love interest is emulated here with Christian Ruebeck, but this too avoids being stale by not focusing on a love triangle and back to the swimming. The mid-life crisis never looked so plain.
The film is a punt along a canal rather than race through a storm, simultaneously funny and charmingly low-key. The cast is lovable and their antics garner more than a chuckle, but it’s not the rip-roaring laughs you would have in other more earnest comedies; instead Swimming with Men is consistently funny but doesn’t try too hard to be a comedy or a drama. Sailing confidently but not too smugly, this is a good comedy to settle in to.
Swimming with Men is released nationwide on the 6th July 2018.
Words by Sunny Ramgolam @SunnyRamgolam.
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