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Rental Unit: "Swimming Upstream"

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"Swimming Upstream," soaked with family conflicts and the tensions of competition, is likeable material. Almost everyone has had moments of antipathy toward one parent or another, and can relate to the tenuous nature of young dreams. There are some problems, however, that keep the movie from finding its full depth, and they are not limited to the regrettably cheap sets and routine editing. Worst of all is director Russell Mulcahy's decision to use a repetitive series of split screens for the swim meets rather than experiment with the staging of the events. Most likely he intended to "put us in the action" or some other film-school jargon, but his technique merely homogenizes, stripping each race of its individual emotions and dramas while it pointlessly breezes through them.

While not looking into the darkness of "The Great Santini" or "This Boy's Life," the film has a lot to say about growing up with heartbreak. Yet there are undercurrents of Australian life and Western culture at the bottom of this story that "Swimming" doesn't try to reach. — Wayne Melton

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