A man suffering from a mid life crisis finds new meaning in his life as part of an all-male, middle-aged, amateur synchronised swimming team.
Review by Louise Keller: Like The Full Monty and Calendar Girls, the protagonists of this gentle British comedy are unlikely heroes, especially in the context of baring flesh. Inspired by the 2010 documentary Men Who Swim, about a Swedish male synchronized swimming team, Oliver Parker's film is about a group of men fighting for their dreams. It's about ideas, ideals and friendships; fighting disappointments and forgetting issues of ageing and saggy flesh. Warm and inspiring, Swimming With Men may not break any records or deliver too many surprises, but it is an amusing and entertaining genuine crowd pleaser.
In the opening scenes when we meet Rob Brydon's Eric Scott at work, the look on his face says it all. He is bored. His face looks drawn. Tired. Grey. The same goes for life at home, where he feels like a stranger. It doesn't help that his wife Heather (Jane Horrocks) is attracting attention from her handsome boss (Nathanial Parker), now she has been elected a counsellor. Solace, escape and feeling alive come at the local swimming pool, where Eric swims and reflects in watery peace on the tiled bottom.
The scene when Eric first notices the synchronized swimmers is very funny. It is at the bottom of the pool; they are sitting opposite - also at the bottom. Their eyes meet. When he seems them in synchronized action on the surface, the numbers man (Eric is an accountant) tells the men that in order to have perfect symmetry, they need to lose a man. We can see where the film is heading when they suggest that adding a man would be a better option. Thus begins Eric's new life - training to compete in the World Synchronised Swimming Competition in Milan.
The get-fit training sequences are predictable as are the stereotypes portrayed by the men. Brydon, who shines so brightly in other comic turns such as The Trip films (paired with Steve Coogan), is less than inspiring here. But the film comes to life in the pool, when the sparkle of the men's spirits becomes apparent and their camaraderie blossoms.
Naturally, all roads lead to Milan for the Big Event and we are suitably enthused as we partake the journey in which the various characters face their respective demons. Listen for Tom Jones' rendition of 'It's a Man's World'. There are some funny lines ('falling in love is like having a stroke or a car accident') and the way Eric and Heather come together as they overcome the bumps in their emotional road is rather sweet. The end is a little drawn out and twee, but you can't knock the sheer goodhearted nature of the film as it leaves us reassured and inspired about putting your best foot forward in a bid to make a difference.