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Swimming Upstream
UKScreen Rating:

Swimming Upstream – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Tony (Spencer) is a big disappointment to his alcoholic, wife-beating father Harry (Rush). He can’t p00000lay football. He can’t box. And he plays the piano.
When Harry realises that Tony can swim like a fish, things start looking up, until he realises that his preferred son, John, can swim equally well.
This tells Tony’s story as he struggles to escape the poverty-stricken Brisbane suburbs of the early 1960s, to make something of himself.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

This might be a true story, but it’s neither interesting nor inspirational.
OK, so Tony has it tough. His alcoholic father beats his supportive mother and prefers his many other siblings to him.
But we never learn why his Dad doesn’t like him, so there’s no resolution to the drama. One minute, he’s the best. The next his brother is. But we never get to the bottom of why his father supports his brother.
And Tony’s greatest achievement is a silver medal in the Commonwealth Games, so he’s not really the all-conquering Australian hero the film is trying to tell us he’s become despite his hardships.
So all we really learn as viewers is that alcohol and beating up women is bad, while practice is good.
When the plot sags, the film-makers just shove in more swimming, fancy editing and music from the wrong decade.
The performances – particularly from Rush and Davis – are undoubtedly powerful, but with no foundation or development, they fail to give any purpose to the plot.
Ultimately, the film is a dull, unsatisfying mess, and is to be avoided unless you have a particular interest in watching backstroke – with a trance dance beat, and edited into such short chunks that you never see much more than one stroke at a time.

opens nationwide June 10 2005

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