Sink or Swim Movie Review (In Detail)

Spoilers Alert:

Once again a handful of swimming men put on swimming trunks and swimming caps to make graceful movements underwater. Sink or Swim (fr. Le grand bain) is not the first film that, based on a true story, tells the fate of a synchronized swimming team against its will. But the first one that’s really good. We reveal more about this in our review.

from left: Mathieu Amalric and Philippe Katerine (top), Balasingham Thamilchelvan and Félix Moati (bottom)

The plot summary

A group of men in their prime and each of them in the middle of a serious life crisis: what could be more natural than to found the first male synchronized swimming team at their local swimming pool? With swimming trunks and swimming caps, they want to take on their own mid-life crisis and the international competition in water ballet. Despite the skepticism and ridicule of their fellow human beings, and drilled by two trainers who are also a little off track, the water sports-loving “beautiful swimmers” embark on an unlikely adventure, at the end of which they have to surpass themselves.

Sink or Swim Movie Meaning & ending

“White House Down” and “Olympus Has Fallen”, “Friends with Benefits” and “Friendship Plus”, “Animally Wild” and “Madagascar” – the list of cinematic step-twins – i.e. two completely independent films that are one and the same take up the same topic – maybe not exactly endless, but long enough to notice that they happen again and again. The story about a male synchronized swimming team, for example. Within a few years, three feature films on the subject were released alongside a documentary. And it took a long time until a really good one was finally created with the French variant “A Pool Full of Men”. The British contribution “Swimming with Men” in particular could have put you off the story, because last year director Oliver Parker mainly focused on the fact that it is just damn funny when men suddenly try to make graceful movements in swimming trunks and swimming caps To make water and then end up at a World Cup. Of course, you can’t deny the comic aspect of this premise. Even director Gilles Lellouche (“The Wonderful World of Gustave Klopp”) doesn’t completely ignore it. But in contrast to his colleagues, he perceives his characters primarily as tragic characters. And that does the story much more justice.

Delphine (Virginie Efira) gives instructions during training.

In its country of production, France, “A Pool Full of Men” was a complete success, being rewarded with a place in the cinema charts. It will probably be different in this country because, on the one hand, the hype surrounding French feel-good films has died down and, on the other hand, the basic idea of ​​the film is not suitable for the masses. The idea behind the film is actually very suitable for the mainstream, because ultimately in “A Pool Full of Men” we are dealing with a classic story of advancement; by the team of authors around Gilles Lellouche himself, garnished with topics such as addiction, self-discovery and midlife crisis. For a long time, the focus of the story is the father of the family, Bertrand (Mathieu Amalric) – he is, so to speak, the French counterpart to Eric from “Swimming with Men”. But unlike him, Bertrand is not an unpleasant puke who deliberately wallows in self-pity in order to get attention from those around him. Instead, his complete lack of interest in his family seems strange at first, before the lethargy slowly gives rise to a sense of his advanced depression. This may not make Bertrand the most comfortable person to see the events of the next two hours alongside, but it does make him one through whom Lellouche brings tremendous sincerity to the story. If there is something important to the Savigny-sur-Orge-born filmmaker, it is the characters. And so he successively confronts not only them, but also the audience with highs and lows.

Although these of course relate primarily to training, which is why the outcome of “A Pool Full of Men” should only be somewhat surprising, it is also much more exciting how the authors integrate the private fates of their protagonists into the story. It’s really devastating when Bertrand, Laurent (Guillaume Canet), Marcus (Benôit Poelvoorde), Simon (Jean-Hugues Anglade), Avanish (Balasingham Thamilchelvan) and Basile (Alban Ivanov) tell each other about their depression, strokes of fate or other problems in their lives and sometimes go into great detail. On the other hand, the script has enough peculiarities and quirks for the characters that allow Gilles Lellouche to work on them comedic. He avoids any overly crude slapstick, let alone actively making fun of the behavior of his main characters; This is partly done by the trainers Delphine (Virginie Efira) and Amanda (Leila Bekhti), who are standing at the edge of the pool, but they are less concerned with the demonstration of their protégés than with the subliminal animation of even higher performance. However, that doesn’t mean that the makers always do themselves a favor with the tone of the film. It can be quite irritating how quickly the devastating alcohol confession switches to the clumsy gross motor swimming session, so that laughter and crying are sometimes so close together that neither one nor the other can really develop.

In any case, “A Pool Full of Men” works best if you look at the entire film as a single emotional tightrope walk. This is exactly when it works best, as it allows both the sometimes very constructed comedy (keyword: department store theft) and, above all, the emotional moments to unfold. “A Pool Full of Men” is therefore carried by exceptional actors who have internalized their characters down to the smallest detail. Next to Guillaume Canet (“Jappeloup – A Legend”) and Mathieu Amalric (“Van Gogh – On the Threshold of Eternity”) The two women in the main cast are particularly enthusiastic. Virginie Efira (“Victoria – Men and Other Misadventures”) gives her character an ambiguity that is second to none and Leila Bekhti (“The second life of Monsieur Alain”) embodies her Amanda as a resolute fighter who knows exactly what is important – and who therefore keeps her good heart to herself whenever possible. “A Pool Full of Men” proves to be an outstanding ensemble piece that takes itself just as seriously as the characters need it to and still allows just enough winks that the viewer can smile at any time – because of course it is ultimately amusing A sight when a few completely untrained men try their hand at synchronized swimming. Ultimately, that makes the finale all the more exhilarating – a finale that everyone on screen deserves.

Conclusion: Although “Sink or Swim” is the third film to take up this theme, it is also the best of them. The French tragicomedy doesn’t just showcase the awkward water performers, but rather dresses the unconventional premise into an emotional drama of self-discovery that makes you laugh and cry.

“Sink or Swim” can be seen in selected USA cinemas from June 27th.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top