7.1/10
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Swimming Upstream (2003)

The inspirational life story of Australian swimmer Tony Fingleton.

Director:

Russell Mulcahy

Writers:

Anthony Fingleton (autobiography), Diane Fingleton (autobiography) | 1 more credit »
4 wins & 15 nominations. See more awards »

Photos

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Geoffrey Rush ... Harold Fingleton
Judy Davis ... Dora Fingleton
Jesse Spencer ... Tony Fingleton
Tim Draxl ... John Fingleton
Deborah Kennedy ... Billie
David Hoflin ... Harold Fingleton Jr.
Craig Horner ... Ronald Fingleton
Brittany Byrnes ... Diane Fingleton
Mitchell Dellevergin Mitchell Dellevergin ... Young Tony
Thomas Davidson Thomas Davidson ... Young John
Kain O'Keeffe Kain O'Keeffe ... Young Harold Jr.
Robert Quinn Robert Quinn ... Young Ronald
Keeara Byrnes Keeara Byrnes ... Young Diane
Mark Hembrow ... Tommy
Simon Burvill-Holmes Simon Burvill-Holmes ... Brother Campbell
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Storyline

The true story of Tony Fingleton, a young man from a troubled family who found the inner strength to become a champion. Always overshadowed in his father's eyes by his brothers, it is only when Tony displays an extraordinary swimming talent that he feels he has a shot at winning his father's heart. Written by Crusader Entertainment

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The pride of a nation. The heart of a champion.

Genres:

Biography | Drama | Sport

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving alcoholism and domestic abuse | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

MGM [United States]

Country:

Australia | USA

Language:

English | Latin

Release Date:

27 February 2003 (Australia) See more »

Also Known As:

Swimming Upstream See more »

Filming Locations:

Brisbane, Queensland, Australia See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$24,520, 6 February 2005

Gross USA:

$54,965

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$791,154
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Color:

Black and White (archive footage)| Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In the movie, Tony competes in the 100-meter backstroke, winning a silver medal at the Empire Games in 1962. In 1962, the Empire Games swimming events were measured in yards, and Tony won silver behind another Australian in the 220-yard event. When he is later told that "your event was today" in reference to the 1964 Olympics, it refers to the 200-meter backstroke - the 100 wasn't contested in Tokyo. See more »

Quotes

Tony Fingleton: [narrating] It's funny how the stumbling blocks of life can help make us better people. I never had the support of my father, but in the end that's what gave me the strength to seek something more than I could've ever imagined. Something in another world.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Swimming Upstream: The Making of a Champion (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling
Music by Ernest Ball
Lyrics by Chauncey Olcott and George Graff
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Rush and Davis give bold performances in this true-life account of Aussie swimming champ Tony Fingleton.
8 February 2005 | by george.schmidtSee all my reviews

SWIMMING UPSTREAM (2005) *** Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis, Jesse Spencer, Tim Draxl, David Hoflin, Craig Horner, Brittany Byrnes, Deborah Kennedy, Mark Hembrow, Mitchell Dellevergin, Thomas Davidson, Kain O'Keefe, Robert Quinn, Keeara Byrnes. (Dir: Russell Mulcahy)

Rush and Davis give bold performances in this true-life account of Aussie swimming champ Tony Fingleton.

Athletic biographies and films about sports in general seem to keep audiences enthralled as they line up to see them, rooting for the underdog and living vicariously through their triumphs as well as viscerally feeling their emotional (and physical) scars they accumulate in the long and winding road to success.

In the latest true-life account the sport is swimming and the athlete is Australia's national champion Tony Fingleton circa the 1950s-early 1960s, beginning with his humble beginnings as the middle child of a family of five and clearly not his father's favorite as the story proceeds to illustrate just how blunt that fact is with some heartbreaking moments of just how difficult it can be to be a perfect athletic specimen, but an absolute zero in the eyes of a loved one.

Tony's blue-collar working class dad, Harold (a superb Rush in a continuing string of chameleon like turns of late), a man who houses many demons and unleashes his inner fury through bottles of beer , tries his best to provide for his sprawling tight family and although his focus on winning-is-the-only-thing-that-matters view in life has to face his failures every day (he gave up a promising attempt as a professional soccer star by marrying young, and regretting every moment thereafter) in spite of his loving family and long-suffering wife Dora (the ethereally haggard Davis equally top-notch in a semi-low-key performance). His main cause of bitterness is apparently his son Tony's good-natured, loving self that only may mirror the phantoms of what Harold may have been (or could have been) and his reflection is only refracted back with disappointment until one day the young boy and his sibling John announce they can swim very well much to his surprise. Harold sees this magical moment as his ticket by coaching his lads gruelingly to stardom and becomes obsessed in their times by carrying his ubiquitous stop-watch at all times and having the boys go at the crack of dawn every day until they are young men equally scrabbling to make names of themselves (and eventually to disembark their trappings for the real world).

Spencer gives a remarkably effective performance as the tortured Tony (as does Dellevergin as his younger version) attempting to shake off the waves of abuse and loathing from the only person he so desperately wants to make proud of and is ably supported by a more difficult turn by Draxl (and his younger counterpoint Davidson) as John. The two young brothers are thick and thin covering for each other when things get messy yet eventually a wedge is driven between the two by the conniving Harold who will stop at nothing to see his 'dream' the way it should be.

The acting by both Rush and Davis is truly impressive as each manages to avoid making either of their roles true monsters and victims by giving them shades of gray in character and just enough reality to their pre-conceived stereotypes – alcoholic loser and misbegotten abused wife.

Veteran director Mulcahy (HIGHLANDER) has a difficult task in keeping the film's pace relevant to the seemingly endless swim matches and his choice of pulsating music diminishes his clever wipes and split-screens to divvy up the emotional overload his characters are going through. Yet the screenplay by Anthony Fingleton - based on his biography with his younger sister Diane – keeps the storyline real in its brutality and shame.

What easily could have been a waterlogged THE GREAT SANTINI the film achieves the unexpected: sympathy for a loser and new-found respect for a winner.


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