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Rob Brydon's Swimming with Men doesn't quite earn its feelgood certificate

Rob Brydon stars in this all-male synchronised swimming team story.

Ever wanted to see Downton Abbey’s Mr Carson in togs? Well, then, Swimming with Men is the film you didn’t know you were waiting for. Downton’s head butler, Jim Carter, is among the Rob Brydon-led ensemble of cut-out characters in this amiable if slight and curiously glum British comedy about blokes from various backgrounds forming a synchronised swimming team. Why did they do that? Good question. Nothing the characters offer quite explains it, either.

But the movie exists because there had been a documentary, Men Who Swim, about a Swedish men’s synchronised swimming team, who did it for existential Scandinavian reasons. The doco also spawned a French version, Le Grand Bain (you didn’t miss anything, apparently). Across the Channel, the concept has become a movie that might have had the intentions of being a bathing-capped Full Monty, but hasn’t quite the ensemble spark or the underdog appeal.

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The movie is dominated by Brydon’s accountant, Eric, who, suffering a mid-life crisis and concerned that his wife (Jane Horrocks) is having an affair, takes his worries down the local teps. There, after offering maths advice to the all-male synchronised swimming team whose performances resemble ball-free water polo, he’s talked into joining. After much dedication and discussion, the all-ages bunch are waving their hairy tootsies above the surface with the best of them. That leads to a contest in Italy, which might have earned the film its feelgood certificate. Unfortunately, there’s a tacked-on happy ending so incredibly naff that the movie nearly drowns in its own syrup.



Video: Icon Films Australia & New Zealand

This article was first published in the March 9, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.