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Return to 2006 Films

Index of 2006

An Inconvenient Truth
Big Bad Swim
Brokeback Mountain
Cinderella Man
The Departed
The DaVinci Code
Eron: The Smartest
Guys in the Room

Good Night and
Good Luck

Half Nelson
History of Violence
Hotel Rwanda
Little Miss Sunshine
Journey from the Fall
March of the Penguins
Million Dollar Baby
Prairie Home Companion
Star Wars III:
Revenge of the Sith

Thank You for Smoking
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
The Sea Inside
United 93
War of the Worlds
Walk the Line
World Trade Center

The Big Bad Swim

The Big Bad Swim is a wonderful independent movie, focusing on a swimming class for adults in a small city in Connecticut. Noah, the teacher, is great with all the students. He realizes that many are embarrassed that they never learned to swim, or have a fear of water. Noah is patient and encouraging, taking each at his or her own pace. The students encompass a wide spectrum: age, gender, occupation. Among them are: the retired couple who just bought a house with a pool; the policeman, terrified of water; the middle school math teacher whose marriage is falling apart; the casino card dealer who also dances at a strip club. Under Noah’s watchful eye, this diverse group of strangers comes together to learn to swim.

As the film progresses, it focuses on three of these characters: Noah, the teacher, who suffers from depression and sees a therapist; Amy, the teacher, and Jordan, the dealer/dancer. Amy and Jordan become friends. Noah and Jordan begin dating.

The movie sounds relatively formulaic, and in its way, it is. What makes it special is the fact that we come to care about the characters (especially Noah, Amy, and Jordan) so much. They are all so very human: talented, attractive people you would love to meet. At the same time, they all carry deep wounds with them. They are fearful with poor self images that keep them lonely and isolated. Through the swim class, they develop bonds and begin to support one another. With the exception of a couple of droupouts, they conquer their fears and learn to swim, albeit some better than others. Even Noah begins to break through his own depression.

The Big Bad Swim is a celebration of community. All characters have good and bad points, and some are more likeable than others. But there are no heroes or villains in the pool. As this group of strangers discovers, they can accomplish a lot more together than they can alone. They also find that, as they gain confidence in the water, they gain confidence in their lives, and begin to change for the better. Their grace, their transformation comes through the community. It’s a very Catholic notion.

The Big Bad Swim is an independent film, from first-time director Ishai Setton. In Daniel Schechter’s wonderful screenplay, humor comes from character. He takes each character seriously. They are wounded, yet never become the butt of jokes. Like most of us, they walk a fine line between tragedy and comedy.

This film has played some film festivals, and been well received. With a small budget, and no big stars, The Big Bad Swim faces an uphill battle to find an audience. However, if it does, I think it will really resonate well with audiences and become a hit. It couldn’t happen to a nicer film.

As the film develops, it centers on three characters: Amy, a middle school math teacher whose marriage (to another teacher at the same school) is falling apart, Noah, the swim teacher, who appears depressed and sees a therapist, and Jordan, a young woman who has two intriguing jobs: dealer at a local casino, as well as a dancer at a strip club. In addition, Jordan’s younger brother, along with a friend, decide to make a film on the swim class for a school project.

From the above description, the film may not sound so promising. Yet Big Bad Swim is a very satisfying movie. What makes it satisfying is that we see change in the characters. The biggest change is that they learn to conquer their fear: they jump in and, eventually swim. Well, at least most do. A couple of students quit, but most hang in there. In learning to swim, to do something they have never done before, they gain confidence in the other areas of their lives. I think Swim is ultimately about the power of community to conquer fear and bring the people to a new awareness of themselves. None could have accomplished their success, in or out of the pool, without the support of the group.

Each of the character is flawed, yet likeable in his or her own way. Like most of the rest of us, they have their wounds. They have been hurt by life, by chances, by other people. Yet they are able to overcome their woundedness in their own way.

Tom Condon, OP

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