Ned Merrill decides swim home, through every pool in an upper-class area. In his small everyday adventure he meets many familiar faces with which he has both laughs and confrontations, but he is also forced to face his destiny before he reaches home.
I highly doubt that I would have watched "The Swimmer" hadn't it been for Grindhouse Releasing with their beautiful new blu-ray/DVD combo release. It's just a title I hadn't heard much about and which would have passed me unnoticed if I browsed through movies. But with Grindhouse Releasing putting it out, I knew it had to be special. They've given old movies some fantastic treatment over the years and they rarely disappoint with the titles they choose or the quality of the product. The movie is based on a short story originally published in The New Yorker, and Grindhouse Releasing kindly included it - read by the author - in their release as well.
Ned Merrill arrives unannounced in a pool that belongs to some old friends of his. He's quickly recognized and they can't believe their luck when Ned Merrill himself is standing in front of them. They obviously idolize him, and Ned is quick to flirt with the ladies and question the men why they don't swim anymore. He's in great shape for his age and there are no signs of him slowing down. When he's about to leave the small gathering, he decides that he has to swim home, in all the pools in the upper-class area. Along the way he meets more familiar faces, but not all of them are happy to see him.
"The Swimmer" is incredibly subtle and perfectly paced, managing to deliver even the smallest bump as something major - as it would in real life. We're completely sold on the macho personality that is Ned Merrill, like the first people he meets in the movie. As the movie progresses, the movie goes deeper and deeper into the psyche of out protagonist, slightly disturbing us where we least expect it. It's an adventure in every way, but most of all it's an experience that absorbs you completely after just a couple of minutes. Even if you can figure out where the movie is heading, the way it's handled is masterful. Few movies have so delicately delivered such heavy blows as "The Swimmer" does.
It has a truly incredible screenplay, which you can't help but praise both the author of the original short story, John Cheever, and the woman who turned it into a screenplay, Eleanor Perry, for. But more than that, they really got the perfect man for the role when they hired Burt Lancaster, who I can only believe wasn't completely sure what he was getting into at the time. There isn't much acting needed for Burt Lancaster to be the strong man we witness in the opening of the movie, but it takes all the more power to show someone like him completely exhausted and worn-out like the end does.
Let's not forget the third power tool in creating an almost surreal experience in this drama: the cinematography. It jumps to nature inserts that speak just as loudly as the words uttered in the rest of the scenes, turning the overwhelmingly beautiful, hot summer to reality no matter during what season you sit down to watch the movie. Of course, it helps that we have Burt Lancaster in only swim shorts through the entire movie to really sell us on the summer, but you get what I mean! It's a very striking movie.
If you were like me, uncertain why Grindhouse Releasing wanted to put this one out but also very curious, then I urge you to order it right now. It exceeded my every expectation. This is one of those times where you actually can believe the very positive reviews. I'm very thankful that this was released and even more that it was sent to me for reviewing, because I could easily have missed it. "The Swimmer" is of the most mesmerizing kinds of dramas, affecting me in ways I couldn't possibly expect.