‘The Swimmer’ Review: Tough Competition, In and Out of the Pool

The writer-director Adam Kalderon renders his film with style and rich psychology.

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By Kyle Turner

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“Competitive sports are a tragedy for the body and soul,” Paloma (Nadia Kucher), the house mother at a dumpy training camp for swimmers, sagely tells Erez (Omer Perelman Striks). He’s sitting in an ice bath after working out too hard, the literal chains on his back during push-ups causing him to collapse in pain. An indelicate visual metaphor, perhaps, but the writer-director Adam Kalderon nonetheless renders his film “The Swimmer” with style and rich psychology. Sweat pools around the athlete’s body and the thin line between ambition and obsession is entrancingly legible on Striks’s face.

For Erez, the possibility of an astronomical rise in the world of competitive swimming is on the horizon, just within reach. So is the Olympic dream of his increasingly aggressive and passively homophobic coach, Dima (Igal Reznik). But when Erez finds himself in a somewhat ambiguous tête-à-tête with another swimmer, the almost as good Nevo (Asaf Jonas), he’s torn between what he wants more: sex or success. Dima, ravenous for his own chance at winning, puts the two in psychological warfare with one another.

“The Swimmer” distinguishes itself from other L.G.B.T.Q. sports dramas less in what the story is and more in how it’s told. Kalderon and the cinematographer Ofer Inov make Adonises out of the film’s athletes, but the film goes beyond mere marble-body ogling in its equal attention to the physical, psychological and emotional toll that training takes on Erez and Nevo. Kalderon finds the intensity of desire and competition in the cracks of the statue.

The Swimmer
Not rated. In Hebrew, English and Russian, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 24 minutes. In theaters.

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