The Swimmer ****
Updated: May 4
Starring: Omer Perelman Striks, Asaf Jonas, Nadia Kucher, Igal Reznik
Director: Adam Kalderon
There’s no doubt the homoeroticism of competitive swimming isn’t lost on gay men. And with the UK’s most famous diver, Tom Daley, one of the biggest LGBT+ celebrities in the country, sporting endeavours in the swimming pool have become inexorably linked with the Gay Community. And now we have The Swimmer, the new gay sports movie from Israel that doesn’t hold back from revelling in depicting its ripped stars’ both in and out of their tiny trunks. Which is exactly what we always knew we needed.
Erez (Striks) is an accomplished swimmer who has been selected to compete in swimming at the highest level and train at the national swimming centre. Run by the strict ex-athlete Dema (Reznik), the rules are unambiguous and severe: no alcohol, no lateness and absolutely no relationships between them. But when Erez meets handsome teammate Nevo (Jonas), the last rule proves harder to follow than anticipated as his feelings develop distinctly toward him.
Unlike similar films – like Swiss football movie Mario – this is decidedly not a romance, but instead a sexual awakening coming-of-age film in which Nevo unwittingly stirs Erez’s unacknowledged sexual longings. And the film focuses heavily on the sexual. For a film that already parades its stars for ninety percent of its runtime in tiny speedos, it manages to go even further and yet stay on the right line of gratuity. The filmmaker is playing up the eroticism for sure, but when the nature of the sport you’re portraying is already pretty nude, he’s managed – with aplomb – to turn up the voyeurism to thirteen. And no wonder Erez’s sexuality its awakened!
He is a conflicted character, which Striks captures adeptly, even if the script does fall into cliché at times. Does every gay man have to bleach his hair when going through stress? It certainly seems that way. Regardless of whether the object of his affection returns his feelings, it’s the presence of those feelings that really drives the film. And Kalderon finds fascination in the swimmers’ speedos as a talisman for everything that Erez – and its audience – are feeling. These men may be almost nude, but the speedo – small as it is – is entirely in the way. And both director and lead are infuriated and obsessed with the garment in equal measure. And it proves a triumphant device.
There’s little doubt that this is a film intended as eye candy. If it looks, smells and feels like eye candy, then that’s probably exactly what it is. And in this case, the director is happy to linger in the showers as the swimmers peel off their trunks, or to delight in depicting them shave each other, with limbs entwined and heads bowed between a partner’s legs to get a good view. Not since Taekwondo has the casting of hunks been so on point, which for a film so reliant on the bodies of its stars is absolutely imperative. And as they say, if you’ve got it, flaunt it.
Magic Mike was a film overlooked for its narrative quality in favour of its sheer sex appeal, and so too is The Swimmer a strong movie that’s as well-crafted as it is dripping in allure. With a strong lead, a tight plot and a director who knows exactly what his film is, this is a compact and sexy crowd-pleaser that you’re probably best off watching alone. With the lights off. And the curtains drawn.
UK Release: 6th May 2022 in cinemas and 16th May 2022 on DVD/VOD, released by Peccadillo Pictures