For years studios have tried to emulate the global success of The Full Monty, a film that boasted a modest £3.5 million budget, but went on to gross over £250 million worldwide. Brits can do pleasant comedies quite well and Swimming with Men certainly has good intentions. The end result is a film that has moments of fun and a strong leading turn from comedian Rob Brydon, but which ultimately feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.
The premise for Swimming with Men is actually based on a true-life story. Rob Brydon plays Eric Scott, a man suffering a midlife crisis that hates his job and feels like his wife is having an affair with her boss (Nathaniel Parker). Stifled and frustrated, Eric’s only solace comes in the form of swimming where, for those few hours, he feels like he has a handle on life and can de-stress.
On one of these swimming sessions he meets up with a group of men. Ted (Jim Carter), Luke (Rupert Graves), Colin (Daniel Mays), Tom (Thomas Turgoose), Kurt (Adeel Akhtar), Silent Bob (Chris Epson) and New Guy (Ronan Daly) have created their own synchronised swimming team as a way of dealing with life’s problems. After Eric helps them out with a formation conundrum (he’s an accountant you see, so can see things they can’t – like adding an extra man to their roster would help with their routine), the guys collectively decide to include Eric into their group.
Before long they are making a serious attempt at the unofficial world championships in Milan, Italy, with a professional coach named Susan (Charlotte Riley) training them for 4 intense weeks. Can Eric turn his fortunes around and find that life is worth persevering with, and can the team beat their own fears in order to put on a good show and ultimately feel like winners?
The premise is simple but effective and there are scenes that are very entertaining. Eric’s relationship with his son Billy (played by Spike White) is quite good, especially at the end of the film when his son misunderstands a grand gesture from his dad to his mum. Speaking of that, Jane Horrocks is just too cold as Eric’s wife Heather – especially for us to want them to get back together. The guys on the swim team are all solid but don’t have long enough to really shine. The pick of the bunch is Rupert Graves as the unofficial leader of the pack who is dealing with his own problems. A half-baked would-be romance with swim coach Susan could have been great but is handled terribly too.
Director Oliver Parker, who most recently helmed the Dad’s Army remake, with past credits including Johnny English Reborn, St. Trinian’s and its sequel, Dorian Gray and An Ideal Husband, tries to evoke a sense of togetherness in this movie and that is achieved to some degree. But Aschlin Ditta’s script frequently chooses to not delve properly into the characters. This doesn’t allow the audience to get close enough to any of these guys to really take the journey on with them.
Swimming with Men is harmless, entertaining fun that won’t leave much of an impression. If you’re looking for more depth then you should know that this film really does only exist in the shallow end of memorable. But Rob Brydon’s natural charm and grace does a lot of the heavy lifting. It has good intentions and a good cast, but a sharper script and some more time spent learning about these characters would have done this film the world of good.
Cast: Rob Brydon, Jane Horrocks, Jim Carter, Rupert Graves, Charlotte Riley, Daniel Mays, Thomas Turgoose, Adeel Akhtar, Chris Epson, Ronan Daly Director: Oliver Parker Writer: Aschlin Ditta Released By: Vertigo Releasing Certificate: 12A Duration: 96 mins Release Date: 6th July 2018