Big Bad Swim
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.
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