The true story of Tony Fingleton, a young man from a troubled family who found the inner strength to become a champion. Always overshadowed in his father's eyes by his brothers, it is only when Tony displays an extraordinary swimming talent that he feels he has a shot at winning his father's heart. Written by
In the movie, Tony competes in the 100-meter backstroke, winning a silver medal at the Empire Games in 1962. In 1962, the Empire Games swimming events were measured in yards, and Tony won silver behind another Australian in the 220-yard event. When he is later told that "your event was today" in reference to the 1964 Olympics, it refers to the 200-meter backstroke - the 100 wasn't contested in Tokyo. See more »
This true story of Australian swimmer Tony Fingleton is not your typical "inspirational" tale of rising above the odds to become a champion, it is rather a tale about the real meaning of success. Success is about realising yourself, not the deeds you do or the medals you win. For Tony this was a tough lesson to learn.
The film is brilliantly directed by Russell Mulcahy, who shows unusual restraint, without losing his dynamic and unique style. Some of his direction here reminded me of his work on "Queer As Folk", as he manages to stylise the action without sacrificing the emotional integrity of the screenplay (which was written by Fingleton himself). Although the film is set in the 1950s and 1960s, Mulcahy refuses to become a slave to the period, instead he utilises 21st century editing styles, including the truly thrilling use of split-screens for the race sequences, and a terrific electronic music score, to make this period tale utterly contemporary.
The performances are nothing short of spectacular. Jesse Spencer, who plays Tony, seems set for international stardom. With the face of an angel, and the body of a god, he can hardly fail to make an impression - but he can really act as well! He is ably supported by two of the greatest actors in the world today, and they're both Aussies - Judy Davis and Geoffrey Rush, who play Tony's parents. The story focuses on Tony's relationship with his father, a very strained and complex relationship. Rush's performance is probably his best screen work to date (yes, even better than "Shine"!), as he creates a multi-dimensional being out of what could have been a cliched villain. And Davis just keeps getting better and better as an actress. As the long-suffering mother, she completely avoids cliche, and invests the character with zest, warmth, love and anger. She is dynamite! Tim Draxl is also impressive as Tony's brother John - at once jealous and proud, and Mitchell Dellevergin is perfect as the young Tony. All the performances are excellent, although I could have done without the comic cameo by Dawn Fraser, which harms the emotional intensity of one very important scene.
Perhaps the film hammers its themes a little too relentlessly, but it's easy to forgive a film that has this much heart. Given the right distribution I think this film will go on to great international acclaim, and strong box-office. Another Aussie classic to treasure!
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