Sink or Swim is a French comedy about an all-male synchronized swim team, exploring mental health and masculine identity in the modern age. The film swings between seriousness and levity more nimbly than most American films, reminiscent of the darker varieties of British comedy. The main character is clinically depressed and out of work, with no friends and a gang of horrid in-laws. He joins the team for no particularly strong reason, but very quickly the team itself becomes the main fixture of the movie. The sport of synchronized swimming is only incidental, but the people who compose the team are given ample time to become fully realized character with their own arcs and motivations. There is the testy and domineering captain, who reads poetry and has a mysterious past affiliation with the sport, and the pool salesman who is deep in debt, as well as the lonely pool supervisor. This gang of misfits all play off each other in interesting ways, and there are many a dialogue driven scene, where the characters mull over each other’s problems in the pool locker rooms.
The pacing of the film may seem off to those who prefer more action-driven plots. But what it lacks in speed it gains in depth and warmth; you walk away feeling like you know the people on screen. Sink or Swim makes no definitive statements on what should be done with those who are depressed or lost, other than that they should seek refuge with people who can band together for a common cause, no matter how silly or small that cause may seem. In addition to these many strengths, the film is well shot and well acted. The absence of any face that will be recognizable to an American audience only helps to make the characters seem more real. American audiences who are not fans of a more British style of humor may also be turned off, for Sink of Swim is neither as dry nor as zany as most American comedies. Instead, it deploys a brand of insult humor that may be particularly French, wherein the deep flaws of other people are sometimes ridiculed, and sometimes healed. I’d recommend this film to anyone interested in a refreshing, character-driven, black comedy.