I had some trouble getting into Swimmers early, then after I got a little better sense of who was who and what was going on I thought it had some promise But in the end it just kind of peters out without realizing that promise. I thought we were going to be spending a lot more time with these characters and more was going to happen, but it’s one of those films that just ends abruptly without resolving much.
The narrator and arguably the main character of the movie is an eleven year old girl facing surgery that her family can’t afford to save her hearing. (The poetic and portentous words put in her mouth in the voiceover fall flat, by the way.) But really I think the focus is on the young woman who returns to town and befriends her. Or at least that’s the aspect of the film that most attracted my attention.
The woman is, quite simply, a loon. This manifests itself in two main ways, one of which is decidedly creepy to me and one of which is not, though which is which may be surprising.
Number one, she speaks to her eleven year old friend very much as an equal, listens to her, talks to her openly about subjects that most would say should not be talked about with someone that age. She refers to the girl as her “best friend,” with no hint of irony or hyperbole or self-consciousness about how such a declaration will be perceived. She responds to the prospects of losing contact with her with alarm.
Number two, she’s a nymphomaniac. She initiates car blow jobs on the first date, aggressively throws herself at any guy she gets alone at her place, encourages guys to be rough with her and “take” her, etc.
It was the second one that I found to be creepy. Normally I’m all for the nymphomania thing if the woman is at least slightly attractive, but one thing this movie brings home is that the combination of nymphomania and blatant insanity is not even a little bit sexy. When she’s in her forcefully seductive mode, it’s utterly unnatural. You can see the rational person has checked out, and her behavior is a product of the damage she’s suffered in her life, and has zero relation to enjoying physical pleasure or desiring a genuine connection with another human being.
On the other hand, her being able so naturally and smoothly to connect with a child as an equal struck me more as an admirable trait. It’s a trait that freaks people out—though not nearly as much as when a male manifests it (think Michael Jackson)—but I like when a person is able to interact with a child as something other than an authority figure or some conventional adult role. Just a person connecting with a person.
I’d like to think I can do that sometimes. I’d like to be able to do it more consistently.
Anyway, like I say, just as I was starting to get to know these people, that was it. It’s not quite accurate to say nothing happens at the end; in retrospect you can point to things in the last five minutes that constitute resolutions of some of the issues I suppose. But to me it was unsatisfying.
And therefore Swimmers as a whole is a bit below average, in my opinion.