The Swimmers: Sisterly bonds through a raging crisis

The new Netflix film may be moving but is no masterpiece

George Neal
11th December 2022
Image Credit: IMDb
The Swimmers tells a story of two sisters attempting to escape the Syrian civil war crisis by embarking on a dangerous journey across the Aegean Sea with their cousin and a group of other refugees. Pushed by their father to become Olympic swimmers at home, Yusra and Sara struggle with their directions in life after they cross through to Germany.

The film brings a message of fighting for your passion and finding yourself even when life gives you hell. Upon crossing the sea with courageous acts, the question of what one should be doing when times are uncertain is constantly prevalent. Yusra stays dedicated in swimming for Olympic greatness in honour of her loved ones while Sara finds herself in limbo and parties to vent her stresses, unable to help her family still in danger.

Director Sally El Hosaini brings a powerful vision to capturing the film’s foreboding horror of war tearing normality apart at the most unexpected moments. This is seen in moments with slow motion and frozen horror, such as when the sisters party at a rooftop club only for bomb landings to be seen in the far-distance and a scene where a bomb falls unexploded in Yusra’s swimming pool as she screams underwater. In other moments, however, Hosaini tells us to savour every small moment of bliss we can find with loved ones in dark times, such as when the family joyously chase their pet bird in a slowed heavenly shot.

However, while the core story is engaging and ragingly tumultuous, the film’s execution does wear a little cliched and Disney-formulaic with its overly long and brighter second act. The sister’s journey through broken boats at sea and bonding with other refugees disappointingly leads into little development in Germany other than Yusra’s iron-clad dedication to swimming. Sara’s ultimate decision to aid refugees overseas comes off as a sweet aftermath to her sister’s Olympic story, with almost no runtime focusing on her building to this significant decision other than the hair-cutting-transformation cliche.

The Swimmers is a well-executed story that seems content with being no masterpiece and passionately delivers a message on family bonds and persistence through brutal world issues.

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