Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Swimming Upstream

(Australia, 2003)

Based on a true story, from the 1960s. Sports movies tend to follow a pattern. That doesn’t mean they can’t be stirring and exciting and insightful and involving, but the better ones find a way to depart from that pattern. This one seems fairly standard: The only blonde child in a family of 5 is real good at swimming, but his sports-mad alcoholic father favors another son who is only pretty good. No matter what the boy accomplishes, his father doesn’t even bother to sneer at it, he just doesn’t care.
Not his son, right? Well, we never find out. So now is the time for the son to win a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, right?


Wrong! He wins the national title, gets a full scholarship to Harvard, and now he must choose one or the other. No-brainer, right? He goes to Tokyo and finally wins his father’s respect, right?

Wrong! He doesn’t even consider the Olympics. He’s off to Boston! He never looks back. He and his dad never really reconcile, though an afterword says Dad beat his alcoholism. Refreshing, and good performances by two wonderful pros, Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis, who must have enjoyed returning to their actual Aussie accents for a change.