Swimming Upstream

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Get together two of Australia’s finest thesps (Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis), a director best known for action flicks such as ‘Highlander’ and some guy who used to be in ‘Neighbours’ (Jesse Spencer) to make a ’50s true-life sports drama, and what have you got? Yes, a bit of a muddle. In the eyes of his father Harold (Rush), Tony Fingleton (Spencer) is the runt of the litter. Eschewing the football field and the boxing ring, Tony prefers to read or tinkle the ivories (when older brother Harold Jr isn’t slamming his fingers under the lid). However, he does possess – along with beloved sibling John – a talent for swimming, prompting his dad to put them both into training. Pretty soon they’re vying for victory in the Australian championships, though it seems not even success there will earn Tony the approval of his father… Rush, adding a thuggish physicality to his damaged, creepy persona, and Davis, as Tony’s mother, firmly anchor the proceedings, though the ever-beaming, blond-haired, blue-eyed Spencer is bread-and-water bland. The film charges rather too rapidly from scene to scene; Tony barely has time to punch the air after a win before he’s back at home dodging punches from Rush, his old man’s alcoholism and continuing antipathy threatening to tear the family apart. It’s the jarring and anachronistic swimming sequences, however, that really threaten to burst this film’s armbands, ratcheting up the pace even more by employing a house soundtrack and so much split screen that you half expect Steve McQueen to come gliding into view. Relatively low-key, slightly baffling, though not entirely devoid of merit.

Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday June 10 2005
Duration: 113 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Russell Mulcahy
Screenwriter: Anthony Fingleton
Cast: Geoffrey Rush
Judy Davis
Jesse Spencer
Tim Draxl
David Hoflin
Craig Horner
Brittany Byrnes
Deborah Kennedy
Mark Hembrow
Melissa Thomas
Dawn Fraser
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