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The Swimmers

Farhad Dalal
By-
Farhad Dalal
Rating
3.5 Star popcorn reviewss

Introduction

It is still a Wednesday but the new releases will start pouring in from tomorrow. But before that I thought of squeezing in another review of a film that had earlier premiered at TIFF and is currently in the top 10 films of Netflix(at the time of writing the review). And with that I finished watching the new English film The Swimmers on Netflix. And it was the synopsis of the film that got me interested. Set against the backdrop of the Syrian crisis, the film was touted as a sports drama. The Syrian crisis has now been ongoing for more than a decade now and it is very easy to comment about it from the comfort of my home. But in reality, it has disrupted the lives of so many families who had to brave across the waters to head to Europe. It is a sad reality in a rather disturbing world that we are a part of. But then does The Swimmers make for a heartfelt representation of the Syrian community, and more importantly is the film worth a watch, lets find out.

Story & Screenplay

Based on true events, The Swimmers is an inspirational tale of two sisters residing in a war-torn Syria who happen to participate in the Olympics. The story is quite heartfelt and inspiring and a shade different from the regular sports dramas. The screenplay standing at 135 minutes does enough to make me believe that it didn’t overstay its welcome. But it is the writing here which is subtle, heartfelt and impressive.

The drama opens with the introduction of the two young protagonists wherein we are told about the onset of the Syrian war through a video. The drama does take a 5 year leap where the two protagonists, now all grown up, are partying in Damascus, Syria. This until we see a spark of light at a distance making its way through the dark sky only to spiral downwards. This was a powerful start to the proceedings wherein we are shown two stark representations of the country – one that is inflicting a war and the other featuring locals who are now immune to the attacks(considering that 5 years have past).

Through some match edits we are given an idea that the two sisters are swimmers and are coached by their own father. In another powerful scene, a sky rocket invades the swimming arena while a local competition is taking place. This scene is beautifully constructed and does send a shiver down your spine. The decision for the two sisters to shift to Europe does seem inevitable despite the family being moderately affected by poverty.

The drama is consistently engaging and engrossing in literally tracing the journey of the two sisters to Europe. There are scenes filled with tension especially the entire boat sequence that did feature so many refugees making their way to Europe, with a lot of uncertainty. The power in the writing resides in the fact that you as a viewer are thoroughly invested in the characters even though the drama is fairly predictable. But you still are invested in their journey and wish to know on the events transpiring in leading up to their destination. And there are plenty of events to keep you on your toes.

There are plenty of heartfelt moments particularly when people from different cultures meet for a common goal. In a subtly moving scene, a couple of women wearing a Hijab take it off citing that ‘they should try to fit in’ which perhaps was a first step in giving up your beliefs and willing to adapt to the surroundings. There are a few good twists and turns leading up to the heartwarming and inspiring final act.

But I did have a couple of issues here as well. I did not like the fact that the screenplay did not surprise me enough. The writing was good and safe with the latter being a bit of a downer for me. Also, the final act although heartfelt was a tad underwhelming and rushed too. Another minor issue was in the tonal shift of scenes briefly in the middle and at the end which weren’t smooth. Perhaps a little more emotions thrown in wouldn’t have hurt much! Yet, taking nothing away from this beautiful journey that was filled with loss and hope thus summing up a screenplay that was well written.

Dialogues, Music & Direction

The dialogues are conversational but really heartfelt. The music and BGM blend perfectly with the drama. The cinematography is exceptional and captures some breathtaking shots with perfection. Director Sally El Hosaini has done a tremendous job in weaving an engaging yet inspiring tale of loss and hope. Additionally, she does a brilliant job in unraveling this tale from a female gaze!

Performances

The performances are exceptional here. Nahel Tzegai as Shada delivers a quietly poignant performance. James Krishna Floyd as Emad is first rate. Matthias Schweighofer as Sven is quietly charming and heartfelt. Ahmed Malek as Nizar is wonderful and does showcase his vulnerability towards the backend rather effectively. Man Issa as Sara and Nathalie Issa as Yusra represent two different ideologies who are stuck in the same situation. The former is rather immune yet more caring and compassionate to people around while the latter is quiet, kind hearted yet ambitious. And both of them have done a stunning job here. The former is a delight to watch while the latter has such expressive eyes and does a wonderful job in emoting the right kind of emotions.

Conclusion

The Swimmers is a heartfelt tale of loss and hope with some great performances that makes for an inspiring watch. Available on Netflix.

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