MOVIE REVIEW: Synchronised men make a splash
SWIMMING WITH MEN (M)
Director: Oliver Parker
Starring: Rob Brydon, Rupert Graves, Charlotte Riley
Running time: 94 minutes
Verdict: Delightfully daft
Forget fast cars and trophy girlfriends … Rob Brydon's po-faced accountant confronts his midlife crisis with goggles and a nose clip.
Bored with his job, worn down by the grey crush of his daily commute, threatened by his wife's new-found passion for public office, Eric Scott (Brydon) escapes to the local swimming pool.
During one of his solitary lap sessions, the dispirited numbers whiz encounters a motley bunch of widowers, divorcees, anxiety-sufferers and petty thieves who have formed their own amateur synchronised swimming team.
The aim, literally and figuratively, is to keep each other afloat.
When Scott is persuaded to join the team, ostensibly to even up the numbers, a difficult, mandala-like turning formation is finally resolved.
Something inside the tightly wound outsider also slides into place.
The men's competitive spirit is awakened by a strapping Swede who smugly announces his team's intended domination of the upcoming, unofficial world competition in Madrid.
They rashly decide to enter - with their unofficial cheerleader (Tom Hardy's wife, Charlotte Riley) as coach.
And so unfolds an under(odd)dog story in the tradition of Strictly Ballroom and Cool Runnings, with more than a passing nod to The Full Monty.
There are a few clunky gear changes in Oliver Parker's film, inspired by the 2010 Swedish documentary Men Who Swim, and some of the humour falls flat.
But there's something very solid about Swimming With Men's portrayal of the strengths and limitations of male friendship.
Many of the characters' backstories are referenced elliptically; we glean snippets of information rather than whole narratives and this works well in terms of the context and themes.
Intimate information is divulged sparingly, if at all.
Rupert Graves' character, Luke, has trodden the most conventional path to self-destruction - having left his wife for a younger woman.
Scott's problems stem more from what he hasn't done.
While the team's transformation from an undisciplined muddle into something vaguely resembling competition preparedness is standard genre material, their triumphant pool sequence is well conceived - they go the full Busby Berserkly.
Based on the story of a group of Swedish men who formed their own synchronised swimming team as a protest against the meaning of life, Swimming With Men is a celebration of silliness.
A gentle, feel-good tonic to a hellish week at the office.
Swimming With Men opens March 21