Swimming Upstream

on February 04, 2005 by Tim Cogshell
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Anthony Fingleton and his brother John were stars of the Australian swimming world in the mid-'50s. They were two of six children whose parents were an alcoholic, oft-unemployed wharf laborer and a long-suffering mother, and were all emotionally and physically abused at the hands of their manipulative and angry father, Harold. The rage that Harold carried was mostly directed at Tony -- which, perhaps, is why he and younger sister Diane wrote the biographical novel "Swimming Upstream," from which this film is adapted by Anthony Fingleton himself.

Basically, this is a fairly run-of-the-mill story of family dysfunction with a sports twist. Tony (Jesse Spencer) and John (Tim Draxl) find their close bond strained when they are pitted against one another, each vying for the affections of a cold and aloof father who plays favorites. The result is some award-winning swimming and, one imagines, lots of therapy bills, not to mention a movie about the whole family drama. While it's drawn from real life, this is all fairly pedestrian stuff, not executed particularly well. There are many scenes of Judy Davis looking forlorn and put-upon as the mother, and Geoffrey Rush as Harold goes on one drunken tear after another, all while Tony begs his dad to love him, often literally. Director Russell Mulcahy ("Highlander"), who's not exactly known for touching family dramas, is fairly ham-fisted with the material, insinuating into the film a selection of visuals and music cues that are completely inappropriate for material set in the 1950s. Starring Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis, Jesse Spencer, Tim Draxl and Deborah Kennedy. Directed by Russell Mulcahy. Written by Anthony Fingleton. Produced by Howard Baldwin, Karen Baldwin and Paul Pompian. An MGM release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving alcoholism and domestic abuse. Running time: 113 min

Tags: tarring Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis, Jesse Spencer, Tim Draxl and Deborah Kennedy. Directed by Russell Mulcahy. Written by Anthony Fingleton, Produced by Howard Baldwin, Karen Baldwin, Paul Pompian, MGM, Drama
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