Sink or Swim: Dad bods you really don’t want to see

Review: Not Waving but Drowning would be a better name for this French ‘comedy’

Sink or Swim: mismatched middle-aged men form an aquatic-acrobatics team

Film Title: Sink or Swim

Director: Gilles Lellouche

Starring: Mathieu Amalric, Guillaume Canet, Benoît Poelvoorde, Jean-Hugues Anglade

Genre: Comedy

Running Time: 122 min

Fri, Dec 28, 2018, 05:00


Following on from Oliver Parker’s Swimming with Men, the second comedy of 2018 to feature a male synchronised-swimming team bellyflops into cinemas with all the finesse one might expect from a French film that peaks with the use of Phil Collins and Philip Bailey’s Easy Lover.

Unlike Parker’s film, and flying in the face of the Full Monty formula, the latest broad, surprisingly mirthless comedy from Gilles Lellouche wastes very little time and effort explaining how a group of mismatched middle-aged men come together to perform aquatic acrobatics. As Sink or Swim opens, Bertrand (Mathieu Amalric) is a depressed hypochondriac dad who has been unemployed for two years. His children are not impressed, but his wife (Marina Foïs) remains steadfast and patient.

Sure what else would he be doing except to pull on his Speedos and sign up for an all-male synchronised-swimming team with a bunch of other sad sacks?

Together, they decompress in the sauna and exchange random problems without judgment – “I was told I was too old for a mortgage. I’m 38,” and so on. One is an ageing rocker (Jean-Hugues Anglade) who plays at the bingo hall, has never scored a hit, and struggles to bond with his daughter. Another is an impoverished pool salesman (Benoît Poelvoorde). There’s an angry guy (Guillaume Canet) and an Asian guy (Balasingham Thamilchelvan) who can’t speak French.

It falls to a former champion (Virginie Efira) to knock these mostly shapeless guys into shape until a personal crisis leaves her in a state of comedy drunkenness. At that point Amanda (Leïla Bekhti), a ball-breaker in a wheelchair, takes over. “You look like the Sri Lankan alphabet,” she bellows. The lads repay her by throwing her in the water. This is as amusing as it gets.

Inevitably, we’re working towards a big international competition – and, even more inevitably, the team start looking like water lilies. Loose ends, some of which we’re barely aware of, are clumsily tied up. Laurent Tangy’s playful cinematography is the most fun thing about the entire lacklustre exercise. Not Waving but Drowning might have been a more apt title.

Opens on New Year’s Day