Swimming for Gold

SWIMMING FOR GOLD, Australia, 2020. Starring Peyton List, Lauren Esposito, Daniel Needs, Olivia Nardini, Johrel Martschinke, Ray Chong Knee. Directed by Hayley MacFarlane. 91 minutes. Rated G (Mild themes)

No mystery in the title. This is definitely a film for those who are swimming fans, especially competitive swimming.

This is a tale with many familiar aspects, designed for a younger audience, young adults, older teens, younger teens. And, there is a definite appeal to a female audience who will respond immediately to three of the central characters, some initial disapproval, a lot of exasperation, quite a number of hopes, and as expected, there is some reconciliation. And there is also the energy of competitiveness. Not that there is not an appeal to a male audience, an invitation to identify with the very presentable young men swimmers and their stories.

In fact, the central character is American, played by Peyton List who has appeared, since she was four, in many American films and television shows. She is Claire Carpenter, a former champion who has developed a phobia about water, has walked away from competition and is idling her time at home. Her patient and considerate father eventually arranges for her to become the assistant coach in Brisbane. Off to Australia.

All the action is in Australia, scenes of Brisbane, a swimming camp in quite a mansion outside Brisbane, with its swimming pool, shared rooms, dining room… And an attractive bush excursion to a special waterfall and pool.

Actually, credibility is seriously challenged when we are introduced to the coach, Bodhi, of Indian ancestry (Ray Chong Nee), with humorous overtones, someone we might never associate with training a swimming team. A talent (?) for motivation, reflecting, visualising, and cultivating plants for healthy drinks. He has known Claire’s father in the past. He hands over to Claire – but she is generally disagreeable, reserved, rather indolent. (This is especially highlighted by the character of Annabelle (Olivia Nardini), a hyperactive swimmer, Claire’s fan, with bursts of hysterical enthusiasm.)

The two central characters are Liam (Daniel Needs), an agreeable medical student who loves swimming, attracted to Claire, but very disappointed in her – and, thank goodness, challenging her in her attitudes, especially towards coaching. The other character is Mikayla (Laura Esposito), a former rival, and they find themselves sharing a room which adds to Claire’s hostile feelings.

One doesn’t need to be a prophet to appreciate what is going to happen – its going along with what happens on the way that is the important part of the film.

Will the team win the national competition…?!!

Steve Jaggi Company                                               Released September 17th

Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

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