Swimming with Men: Rob Brydon becomes a synchronised swimmer

Review: This very British film is never entirely awful, but it’s never very good either

In synch: Rob Brydon and assorted pool-bound oddballs

Film Title: Swimming with Men

Director: Oliver Parker

Starring: Rob Brydon, Adeel Akhtar, Daniel Mays, Jim Carter, Rupert Graves, Thomas Turgoose, Charlotte Riley

Genre: Comedy

Running Time: 97 min

Thu, Jul 5, 2018, 17:36


Some part of you knew this film would happen eventually. Ever since The Full Monty (stripping) and Calendar Girls (stripping for calendars), British cinema has been awash with films in which groups of troubled oddballs find fulfilment by pursuing an unlikely ambition. We’ve had at least two more already this year.

In the latest unremarkable, often quite tolerable addition to the genre, Rob Brydon – an accountant married awkwardly to a local councillor – makes such a change through the medium of synchronised swimming.

There’s already been more of this about than you might suspect. Oliver Parker’s film was inspired by a Swedish documentary called Men Who Swim, which dealt with a group of relatively ordinary Swedes who found themselves competing in the world championship. A little over a month ago Sink or Swim, a French film with exactly the same plot as Swimming With Men, premiered at the Cannes film festival. There’ll soon be more of these than there are Batman flicks.

Not much in the current film makes sense. Only the abstract notion of a movie-movie “mid-life crisis” can explain Rob’s apparent irrational meltdown. He snaps at his wife (Jane Horrocks) as she becomes more involved with local politics. He imagines she is having an affair.

Eventually Rob, a regular swimmer of lengths, falls in with the local male synchronised team. They feature the usual array of disappointed nice guys. Jim Carter is sad and alone. Thomas Turgoose is a young tearaway. Adeel Akhtar is a gay dentist. Rupert Graves lives on a boat. All life is here.

It’s hard to see why anybody tolerates Rob, but they gradually help him through his neuroses and, after implausibly competing in the world championships, return to assist in a heroic finale scored to the most unavoidable celebratory rock song of the last 15 years (see if you can guess what it is).

The film is never very good. It’s never entirely awful. Oliver Parker, perpetrator of the recent Dad’s Army, makes sure the actors are all kicking at the same time, waving in unison and … Oh, you know. Some laboured synchronised swimming reference.

Opens: July 6th