Robert J. Siegel’s Swimming is that rare coming-of-age tale that doesn’t scream Afterschool Special. This leisurely paced, low-key gem has all the charms (good and bad) of a weekend at the shore. Siegel reels us into the film’s dreamy Carolina beach country with shots of horny young teens flexing their muscles and attitudes at the local boardwalk. Frankie (Lauren Ambrose of HBO’s Six Feet Under) is a pale, unpretentious creature that may not wear her ennui on her sleeve yet she noticeably itches for better things and better places. Nicola (Jennifer Dundas) is her childhood best friend, a “fucking exhibitionist” who doesn’t take kindly to Josee (Joelle Carter), a wolf in sheep’s clothing who challenges Frankie’s friendships, not to mention her sense of self. Much of the film’s conflicts remain delicately unspoken, so much so that that the material is never burdened by grand displays of fetishism or portentousness (indeed, Swimming is the perfect antidote to the similarly themed Girl’s Can’t Swim). When Josee kisses Frankie a tad too intimately, the potential for titillation is there. Instead, Ambrose stunningly internalizes and underplays her character’s flash of confusion. Though Siegel isn’t so much concerned with the repression of rural living as he is with the thorniness of everyday relationships, small details (for example, a Confederate flag sewn to a trailer-park dealer’s shirt) have a way of evoking Frankie’s desire to leave her home behind. Frankie’s looks and age make her frequently undervalued and while her desire for a car becomes a burning need to escape, Siegel worships the girl’s place of origin. This sweet tale of tender betrayals and friendships gone awry reminds Frankie that she may be fine exactly where she is.
- Oceanside Pictures
- 98 min
- Robert J. Siegel
- Lisa Bazadona, Robert J. Siegel, Grace Woodard
- Lauren Ambrose, Jennifer Dundas Lowe, Joelle Carter, Jamie Harrold, James Villemaire, Josh Pais, Charon Scruggs, Joshua Harto, Anthony Ruivivar
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