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SINK OR SWIM gets 8/10 Pool’s open

Directed by Gilles Lellouche
Starring Mathieu Amalric, Benoît Poelvoorde, Leila Bekhti, Virginie Efira


The general arc of Sink or Swim certainly won’t sound too unfamiliar – a bunch of blokes, down on their luck, turn to an odd hobby and through their hard work and new-found accomplishments within it rekindle the respect and admiration of their family and friends. But it’s in the details that Sink or Swim succeeds at engaging an audience and have them empathise so much with these characters, as the lighthearted tone and script make this film hard not to like.

Beginning with a tremendous Monty Python-esque animation sequence that encapsulates the workings of the world concisely in a short amount of time, it sums up that “a square peg won’t fit in a round hole” – the reason for this amazing opening sequence isn’t revealed until the clever pay-off in the very last line of dialogue.

Although the film mostly examines the lives of men’s synchronised swimming through the eyes of newcomer Bertrand (Mathieu Amalric), there seems to be an even focus on the troubles in all of the men in his team. Bertrand himself is depressed and unemployed/unemployable, Marcus’s (Benoît Poelvoorde) pool and spa business is becoming bankrupt, Simon (Jean-Hugues Anglade) is a deadbeat dad/failed rocker whose daughter has little to no respect for him, and Laurent (Guillaume Canet) has anger issues that recently lead to his divorce.

Even their trainers are having issues. After their former trainer Delphine (Virginie Efira) leaves due to an alcoholic relapse, the fiercely determined wheelchair-bound Amanda (Leila Bekhti) is brought on board and intensifies the training schedule, replacing their focus on the gracefulness of synchronized swimming to its physical intensity.

It seems unfortunate that most of the training scenes just involve the men running in the great French outdoors, with very little seen of their actual rehearsals, especially as it all leads up to their performance at the European championship, which likely features the one of the finest synchronised swimming scene to appear in the cinemas recently, shot and edited to make it appear all the more impressive.

Despite the downsides here, Sink or Swim mostly keeps itself afloat due to its great array of characters and how deeply this film cares about them, all the while sustaining a suitably light sense of humour and plenty of dad bods on display.


Sink or Swim plays at UWA Somerville from Monday, December 31 to Sunday, January 6, 8pm, and at ECU Joondalup Pines from Tuesday, January 8 to Sunday, January 13, 8pm.

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