The Swimmer | QFest St. Louis 2022

The 15th annual QFest St. Louis comes to a close this Thursday with Adam Kalderon’s The Swimmer (May 5, 8:15 pm), an Israeli film about a young swimmer (Erez, played by Omar Perelman Striks) striving to make the Olympic team. Erez has made a good start by being selected for an elite program at a training center in the middle of nowhere, and now his task is to come in first against a number of equally ambitious young men, all of whom know only one of them will be chosen for the Olympics.

Kalderon, who also wrote the screenplay, doesn’t do a lot of character development. Instead, he relies on the natural momentum created by following the conventions of two familiar plot lines: getting ready for the big competition, and finding your place in the world. We do learn a little more about Erez, who comes from an athletic family, and whose father is warmly supportive of his son’s efforts, but the other swimmers remain largely ciphers.

The head coach, Dema (Igal Reznik), is almost comical in his gruffness and undisguised ambition: these young men are a means to an end for him, as he hopes to further his own career through their success. But his actions often seem counterproductive, and he loves to manipulate the swimmers in ways that could damage their confidence. Sad to say, that’s a type familiar to anyone who’s spent much time around competitive sport. Dema is also an unabashed homophobe who figures out that Erez is attracted to another male swimmer, the talented Nevo (Asaf Jones), even before Erez himself is clear about how he feels.

The technical aspects of The Swimmer are all first-rate, including beautiful cinematography by Ofer Inov, expert editing by Guy Nemesh, and a bouncy soundtrack courtesy of The Penelopes. While The Swimmer provides many of the pleasures expected from a conventional sports film, it also has a surprise up its sleeve, taking a turn that I would not have anticipated in a million years.

As you might guess, there’s a lot of beautiful bodies on display in The Swimmer, and the eye candy is enhanced by having them train in the tiniest of Speedos rather than the knee-length trunks usually seen in elite competition. These young men seem to spend a lot of time sunning themselves and wandering about shirtless, and you’ll get to see something of them without their Speedos as well. | Sarah Boslaugh

All QFest films will be shown at the Galleria 6 Cinema in Richmond Heights. Individual tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for Cinema St. Louis members and students with valid ID; five-film passes and all-access passes are also available. The shorts programs and two features—The Unabridged Mrs. Vera’s Daybook and Two Eyes—are also available for home viewing in Missouri and Illinois from April 29 through May 5. Proof of full vaccination or a negative PCR test from the previous 72 hours is required for in-person screenings. Further information is available from the Cinema St. Louis website.

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