Thursday, July 17, 2008

Swimming Upstream

I generally enjoy sports movies: the excitement, the underdog coming out victorious, overcoming obstacles, etc. There's a lot to like. So when Netflix recommended Swimming Upstream and I saw that it starred Jesse Spencer (from House), Geoffrey Rush, and Judy Davis, I thought I'd probably enjoy it. Oh, and did I mention I swam competitively for 6 years and can't wait for the Olympics. Swimming Upstream is the story of an Australian family with an abusive macho father (Rush) and 4 sons. The father is continually pitting his boys against each other, letting one box the other unfairly. Eventually, he sees his 2 middle sons (Spencer and Tim Draxl) racing in the local pool, and turning his attention away from his eldest son, he begins training the two swimmers. They train together for years, advancing through the ranks in Australian swimming competitions - luckily in different events, Spencer in backstroke and the other in freestyle. Because Rush seems to only have capricious affection for even his children, he devotes his training to the younger freestyler. However, he doesn't have the heart to compete that Spencer has and fails to live up to his father's expectations. You'd expect the father to turn his attention to the winning Spencer, but he doesn't seem to care, and returns to drinking and battering his family at home. Spencer begins to train on his own, and ultimately makes the Australian Olympic team to compete in Tokyo. There are many ups and downs along the way, but as it's an autobiographical story, it was easy to see that the ending would come out okay.

The acting is superb. Spencer plays a loving son, devoted to his mother, who works hard to succeed, and strives to lead a better life than his father did. He tries repeatedly to gain the approval of his father. Rush deftly denies all affection, while always holding out hope that it might be attained. It's a sad, strained relationship, but Judy Davis as the mother is terrific at making you believe there was enough love and hope in the house that the family would stay together. Most dramas like this of families lack that reason and thus you can't really believe the story. It's a terrific movie, particularly if you like swimming. Even if you don't, you can cheer for the winners.
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1 comment:

Cinexcellence said...

Hey. I'm hosting a film blog-a-thon on my site:

If you could post a link to it on your site that would be awesome. And feel free to participate!