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Canada's Sweetheart

Author: sddavis63 ( from Durham Region, Ontario, Canada
22 July 2012

When I was growing up I was still being treated to stories about Marilyn Bell becoming the first person to swim across Lake Ontario - and that was 20 years after the fact. Many have done it since, but she was the first. This made for TV production recounts some of the events leading up to the swim as Marilyn tries to be taken seriously as a long distance swimmer and offers a rather agonizing account in the last half hour or so of the actual swim - one that conquered the great American marathon swimmer Florence Chadwick, who gave up on the attempt a few hours into the swim.

Caroline Dhavernas (who is a fine Canadian actress) does well in the title role. She really is the epitome of the "sweetheart." She's small, she's cute, she's likable (even lovable) and as she portrays Marilyn you root for her to succeed in the swim. The other figures portrayed in the film are less lovable - her coach Gus Ryder, her mother and the head of the Canadian National Exhibition (which organized the event to get publicity through Chadwick's participation, and which didn't really want Bell included) don't come across well. Both her father and her friend Joan on the other hand do.

The greatest weakness here was the lack of any real portrayal of Marilyn's development as a swimmer. She fights to get onto Ryder's swimming team, and there's a few shots of her working in the pool, but then all of a sudden she's winning a big marathon swim in Atlantic City and then she's jumping into Lake Ontario for a more than 50 km swim across. That was a bit jarring. She must have done a lot more than we saw here to get ready for this swim. As I noted above, though, the portrayal of her swim is agonizing as she's close to giving up several times, and almost gets pulled out of the water by Toronto Harbour Police in sight of shore because she doesn't seem able to move anymore.

All in all, this is a good movie, if a little lacking in detail, and it's worth watching for Caroline Dhavernas' great performance.

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If you're sentimental, this is a real tear jerker!

Author: retiredcia from Medford Oregon
23 December 2001

One does not have to be from or live in Canada to love this movie. It is a great story about the desire and resolve of a dedicated 16-year old girl during a time when it was not fashionable. Having grown up during the 50's it was refreshing to view such realistic costumes and authentic looking scenic backgrounds. For what its worth, I highly recommend children and adults alike view this film. It is currently being shown on Showtime (cable) during December 2001. The film's players were great and excellently portrayed thier roles.

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A story about a girl who never quits

Author: feisty16 from Whitehorse, Yukon
13 June 2001

I loved this movie. The filming was excelent except I didn't really like the under water shots. The under water shots looked like it was filmed in the present and the rest of the movie looked like it was filmed in the past. Amy did an awesome job, her character changed from a real meany to a real sweetie. GO AMY!!! All the power to merilyn. The lighting in the swimming at night was really neat.

By Ceci

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Holy Balls On a Mormon Rabbi's chin!

Author: underagedrunkard from Whitehorse Yukon
13 June 2001

I must admit I would not have watched this movie out of my free will but this made for tv movie was actually enjoyable. The movie had a great 50's "feel" to it (except for the tacky underwater shots) acting was rather good for its genre. Then I paid a lot of attention to the performance of Amy Sloan not because of her ability but because her mother is my teacher, I must say Amy did a good job but I think she could have done better. Overall I give this movie a 7/10.

Jade Lacosse

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

A pleasant, heart-warming film

Author: sundar-2 from Ontario, Canada
11 February 2001

If you are interested in swimming or if you are a Canadian, you will like this movie. It tells the real-life story of Marilyn Bell, an underdog swimmer who outswam the more-favoured Florence Chadwick during the first swim ever across Lake Ontario. Caroline Dhavernas who plays the title role is cute and lovable as the sixteen-year old Marilyn Bell. The Toronto of the middle twentieth century depicted in this movie looks authentic and the automobiles from that bygone age add a nostalgic flavour to this film. Except for Marilyn Bell, the characters in this flick are not likeable. It seems that the stuck-up American prima donna Florence Chadwick, Marilyn's pushy swimming coach who initially has a contempt for her, the buffoonish Toronto Star reporters are there in the film only to provide contrasts to the title character. Such portrayals appear rather unnatural. Otherwise, this is a well-made film.

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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Oi, Canada

Author: jackcollins1977 from Canada
1 March 2008

Florence Chadwick was actually the far more accomplished swimmer, of course. She swam the English Channel both directions. She swam from Catalina Island to the California coast. Marilyn Bell's is a sweet story, but the usual glorification of us Canadians in the face of a superior world. Another sample of our inferiority complex. Our political system works pretty well and the health system allows people not to die in hospital lobbies. That's pretty good. Better than Lebanon. What should we do about hockey though...? And curling. The notion of calling this a sport, of its inclusion in the Olympics...! ah, but we digress...

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