More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 29.41%
Average: 5.88%
Pretty Bad: 1.96%
Total Crap: 3.92%

1 review, 45 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Executioner's Song, The by Jack Sommersby

Come Play by Peter Sobczynski

Blind Fury by Jack Sommersby

Craft, The: Legacy by Peter Sobczynski

Forbidden World by Jack Sommersby

Joysticks by Jack Sommersby

Exterminator/Exterminator 2, The by Jack Sommersby

Doorman, The (2020) by Jay Seaver

Postmortem by Jack Sommersby

Warrior and the Sorceress, The by Jack Sommersby

subscribe to this feed

Swimming Upstream
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Stephen Groenewegen

"Desperately seeking approval"
4 stars

Swimming Upstream is a biographical triumph over adversity drama set in sun-drenched 1950s Brisbane. It offers powerhouse performances from Geoffrey Rush as the protagonist’s bullying drunkard of a father and Judy Davis as his protective mother.

Mitchell Dellevergin plays Tony Fingleton, a kid bewildered by his father’s rejection. Fingleton becomes a teenage swimming champion (Jesse Spencer) but is still unable to win father Harold’s approval. Davis’s strength and presence save us from another meek, dominated wife. Spencer does his best work in his scenes with Rush but otherwise offers a blandly modest and reasonable hero. Singer Tim Draxl makes a stronger impression as Tony’s younger, competitive brother John.

Anthony Fingleton wrote his own story with sister Diane (who also happens to be Queensland’s first female Chief Magistrate). The screenplay is subject to the usual flaws of the biopic genre – certain characters are distorted out of proportion and other family members, including Diane, fade into the background. But Swimming Upstream has something useful to say about the crippling codes of masculinity in this country.

Since he plays the piano and doesn’t take to boxing or footy, Tony is forever a “pansy” in his father’s eyes, despite his ultimate sporting success. In choosing to reject Olympic glory and fame to pursue an overseas scholarship, Fingleton proves himself an inspiring, if unlikely, hero. Australia lionises its sporting stars but pays little heed to academic achievement.

Russell Mulcahy is not a director for holding back. He brings excitement – and a frenzy of split screens – to the swimming meets. But some of the family confrontations are cartoonish in their bluntness, and only grounded by the performers. Mulcahy seeks approval from the audience as desperately as Fingleton does from his father. Primitive and crude as some of his techniques are, it’s hard not to get swept up in the thrill of the story, thanks largely to the quality of the players.

With such an inspirational arc, it’s no surprise that Swimming Upstream began life as a telemovie. It certainly doesn’t look like one now, thanks to Martin McGrath’s glowing cinematography and the marvellously rich work of Roger Ford (production design) and Angus Strathie (costume design) recreating the period.

Swimming Upstream could almost be “Shine in the swimming pool”. It stars Geoffrey Rush, features a similar father-son dynamic and seems destined to attract acclaim and a considerable audience.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 10/28/02 08:06:18
[printer] printer-friendly format  
For more in the Australian series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/15/17 Anne Selby so many powerful themes - among them how one can rise above negative parental influences 5 stars
10/10/10 paul simpson great film 5 stars
11/05/07 noname no so good but there is a truth behind it. 3 stars
10/28/05 Jake does well to give you an understanding of the issues. 4 stars
7/17/05 Goodshe Dragged some 3 stars
5/19/05 ABomb Coolangatta Gold 2. But worse. From the maker of Razorback! 1 stars
1/17/05 Gullytrap Swimming Upstream...or in any direction AWAY FROM THIS MOVIE! 1 stars
11/07/04 jane good movie 5 stars
10/20/04 Mandi Excellant 4 stars
8/14/04 tomara elisha compelling, gripping, moving, a real movie experience 5 stars
8/07/04 Sasha Reed A sons breathtaking battle for his fathers love! 5 stars
6/24/04 akira this film is the most excellent 5 stars
5/13/04 bill great acting from geofry rush 4 stars
4/02/04 nic an interesting, worth while film 3 stars
1/27/04 janice a film must see 5 stars
1/07/04 Karla Goulevitch WOW Jesse is hot and the acting is amazing 4 stars
12/31/03 tim good respresentation of one brisbane family. loved the bit with the real dawn fraser! 4 stars
12/27/03 Amanda Wonderful, geoffrey rush is so sexy 5 stars
11/19/03 mbennett Fantastic 5 stars
11/06/03 Robyn Wyer deeply moving and confronting drama 4 stars
9/19/03 Stewart Kramm The best movie this year, Truely Superb 5 stars
8/25/03 Kate Great movie-the story needed to be told.Tim is just as amazing an actor as he is a singer. 5 stars
8/10/03 dom great movie very moving 5 stars
7/25/03 Danielle Jubjub A disturbing yet inspirational story 5 stars
7/04/03 Kat Great movie!! 5 stars
5/13/03 Elizabeth JD & GR both impressive; an excellent film. 4 stars
4/03/03 SteveM Pretty Good - Mulcahy is Hopeless at directing for performance! 5 stars
4/02/03 Wil Best Aussie film for a long time 5 stars
3/22/03 Sharyn Jamieson Brilliant - having grown up in Spring Hill, it was hard hitting and vivid 5 stars
3/16/03 Matthew Smith inspirational, excellent performances from Rush and Davis 4 stars
3/13/03 john barrroow 5 stars
3/08/03 Ella & Kate YAY!!! We love Jesse Spencer!! He is SOOOOO hot!!! 5 stars
3/08/03 pqrst Very true portrayal of working class Australian men of that era 5 stars
3/02/03 Mike Top film 5 stars
3/02/03 Michelle absolutely fabulous, a very inspirational and moving movie 5 stars
2/28/03 Ian I. JD, GR are too wiry to be eye-candy kids' ma 'n' pa. Also, I feel sorry 4 John ref EoFilm. 5 stars
2/26/03 Elise Adams Fabulous, Mitchell was brilliant!!! 5 stars
2/26/03 Katie Jackson Jesse and Tim are very cute in it 4 stars
2/25/03 Tarn definitely a goer 5 stars
2/24/03 Sylvia Fingleton About my husbands family & mostly fiction 2 stars
2/12/03 John David Love It's really fantastic! Moving, top performances story hits the mark! 5 stars
12/04/02 Bruce Dargie Tough, emotional and a pleasure to see so much great talent - both behind and on screen! 5 stars
11/28/02 Kain O'Keeffe I was in the movie!! And its good to here you think its great. I played Harold Jnr. 5 stars
11/14/02 fred soooooooo lame 5 stars
11/06/02 Jesse Christidis Brilliant 5 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  04-Feb-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 31-May-2005



Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast