“The Swimmers”


Rotten Tomatoes (***+), Letterboxd (3.5/5), Imdb.com (7/10)

There’s something truly inspiring about beating seemingly impossible odds, accomplishments that stir our emotions and may even produce a significant adrenalin rush. Such are the feelings evoked in writer-director Sally El Hosaini’s new fact-based chronicle about a pair of sisters (Nathalie Issa, Manal Issa) who fled war-torn Syria as refugees to find their way to sanctuary in Germany. But, if that weren’t enough in itself, the younger sibling – a lifetime competitive swimmer – managed to land a spot on the Refugee Olympic Team to compete in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro games. While this BAFTA Award nominee for Best British Film runs a little long (especially in the depiction of the sisters’ flight to freedom), the picture nevertheless shines a bright light on the global refugee crisis (and not just among those fleeing Syria) and what’s attainable when we set our minds to it. This Netflix offering certainly delivers an uplifting message, as well as a candid look at sibling relationships and how they evolve over time. Admittedly, the picture tends to be somewhat formulaic at times, but its compelling story and creative cinematography do much to sell the film as a genuine crowd-pleaser, one that’s particularly empowering to girls, young women and those who dare to dream big in the face of potentially insurmountable challenges.