Swimming with Men (3 stars)

Swimming with Men

EIFF 2018: Rob Brydon takes the plunge in this undemanding but gamely performed dramedy

A melancholy accountant in midlife crisis (Rob Brydon) meets a ragtag band of unlikely lads at his local pool and joins their synchronised swim team, braving mockery and personal dramas to compete in the world championships of men's synchro. Buddies bond, bare their cares and lift each other's spirits in their watery retreat from the world and its disappointments. Lives are transformed, love happens, self-esteem is revived – yep, it's The Full Monty with nose clips and goggles.

That is no bad thing, although director Oliver Parker's latest looks like it was made on a budget that would fit into Tom Daley's Speedos. It all feels terribly British and could comfortably have worked as a nice little undemanding TV dramedy, even though Aschlin Ditta's screenplay was inspired by Dylan Williams' 2010 documentary, Men Who Swim, about a team of middle-aged Swedes with the same dream of aquatic glory

Where this makes its splash is in its casting. Brydon is both droll and sympathetic company as Eric, a man who is sad, mad and a tad unhinged about the way his life and marriage (Jane Horrocks stars as his baffled, exasperated wife Heather) have gone stale. Joining Brydon in the swim club ('The first rule of Swim Club is: you do not talk about Swim Club') is a game ensemble of troupers, including Jim Carter, Rupert Graves, Daniel Mays, Adeel Akhtar and Thomas Turgoose, with Charlotte Riley as their endearingly tough coach.

They work terrifically well together as credible, wisecracking comrades, and perform some aquatic gymnastics that must have been an intensive, skin-shrivelling labour to learn. Collectively they invest this with enough charm to keep it confidently afloat.

Screening as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018. General release from Fri 6 Jul.

Swimming with Men

  • 3 stars
  • 2018
  • UK
  • 1h 37min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Oliver Parker
  • Cast: Rob Brydon, Rupert Graves, Adeel Akhtar, Jim Carter, Jane Horrocks, Thomas Turgoose, Daniel Mays, Charlotte Riley
  • UK release: 6 July 2018

Eric (Brydon) is a melancholy accountant in middle life who joins a synchronised swim team at his local pool. This ultra-low-budget offering has a game ensemble who work terrifically well as wisecracking comrades, and Riley as good as their tough coach. It may be The Full Monty with nose clips and goggles but it keeps…