Rob Brydon, Rupert Graves, Charlotte Riley and the people of Swimming with Men talk body image, gender expectations and British film.
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A quirky film based on true events, Swimming with Men tells the story of a group of middle aged men who seek refuge from day-to-day monotony in their weekly synchronised swimming meets. Starring big British names like Rob Brydon, Rupert Graves, Thomas Turgoose, Daniel Mays and Charlotte Riley, the film directed by Oliver Parker was the one chosen to close this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival. The National Student got to speak to the cast and director about their experience of the film. Rob Brydon stars as Eric Scott, the film’s protagonist. As he explains, “I’d not played a lead character in a film, so for me it was interesting to try and take the audience from the beginning through the end, to take them on an emotional journey and to pace the performance with that in mind. “As far as the actual filming of it goes, I loved being with all the guys in the team. We had such a laugh, we had two weeks of training when we were in the pool every day, so in doing that you really bond and you really come together.” He hopes that “audiences get from it what I get from it, which is a funny film with heart. I mean in a lot of the work I do, I try to have heart, I try to make it a warm experience, and this film is very uplifting. You want these guys to win. “They’re this disparate group of middle-aged men with less than perfect bodies who meet up once a week to practice their routines. They say they don’t want to perform, they don’t want to do it for an audience, but then they somehow end up in the world championships, and they give it their very best. And the audience are rooting for them. So, I hope it’s a complete cinematic experience, that you laugh, you cry, and you come out wanting to jump into a pool!” The only woman to feature in the main ensemble cast, Charlotte Riley plays the team’s coach Susan, herself a synchronised swimmer for the women’s team. As Riley describes, with her character “in the beginning, I think the audience will assume that she’s quite meek, quite mild and reserved, but when it comes to her sport, she’s really serious. She means business, and I think there’s a bit of comedy in that. It’s good fun to see the transformation.” But of course, “it’s not about the separation of men and women, it’s about people learning from each other. And in the film you see the guys have a huge amount of respect for her because she knows a lot about the sport that they don’t, and they take her advice,” and through that advice, they reach the World Championships. For Riley, reading the script “felt very personal right from the beginning. It’s felt quite like that for everybody involved, everybody really wanted to be making the film and it’s – it’s not a small story in a diminutive sense, it’s just about people’s feelings and personalities and problems, and I think it was such a feel-good film that I wanted to be a part of something that would make people feel good! There’s so much violence in everything we watch at the moment, and I like watching those kinds of things too, but sometimes you just want to be part of something that makes people feel good.
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