It isn’t unusual to have two films about the same subject matter, Deep Impact and Armageddon or Dante’s Peak and Volcano, to name but four.
This time it’s the subject of synchronised swimming, in this case, men’s synchronised swimming. Taking inspiration from the real-life story of the Stockholm Art Swim Gents, Sink Or Swim follows a man in deep depression, the magnificent Mathieu Amalric (“Daguerrotype”, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”), who joins a men’s synchronised swimming team.
I say two films, there’s actually been more if you count the documentaries on the subject. In the UK we had Swimming With Men, with Rob Brydon, to be honest, it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other as to which film you watch, they’re both similar.
This rag-tag bunch of men all have ongoing issues away from the pool, whether its Amalric and his depression, Benoit Poelvoorde (“Coco Before Chanel”, “Man Bites Dog”) as a business owner on the verge of bankruptcy for the fourth time, or failed musician Jean-Hughes Anglade (“Nikita”, “Betty Blue”) who clings to the belief he’ll be signed to a record label any day.
The pool, and eccentric coach Delphine, Virginie Efira (“Elle”, “Second Chance”), who has issues of her own, are the men’s escape. Delphine doesn’t so much coach the men as counsel them, reading them poetry and more to relax them during training.
When Delphine is forced to take a break, Amanda, Leila Bekhti (“Paris, je t’aime”, “Mesrine Part 1”), steps in. She’s a no-nonsense sort of coach, with a cane, and she literally whips the men into shape, upping their training to a new level.
When the men discover they aren’t the only men’s synchronised swimming team, and that there’s a World Championship occurring, they take the plunge (sorry) and sign-up to become the Male French Synchronised Swimming Team.
Swimming With Men was, somewhat inevitably, compared to The Full Monty, and you could quite easily level the same thing at Sink Or Swim. It follows the same format, along with movies such as Eddie The Eagle or Cool Runnings.
Sink Or Swim is funny too, and there’s a funny montage set to an appropriate soundtrack of the men all practicing at work.
However, I can say that there’s a lot that doesn’t sit quite right in Sink Or Swim. After watching Perfect, the documentary about the Canadian Synchronised Swimming Team (female), I was in awe at the sheer amount of training that went into the sport. To think that this bunch of dad-bod amateurs can rock-up at a World Championship, where all the other teams look like elite athletes (which apparently wasn’t quite the case), and compete is a step too far.
However, that aside, Sink Or Swim is a funny, very well acted and beautifully directed movie that’s making a big splash (sorry again) across the pond in its native France.