Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Some of the most intriguing LGBT films are coming from outside of the United States. In what may be a first for Israeli cinema, gay-tinged feature The Swimmer explodes with homoerotic energy and gorgeously-photographed bodies. I knew I was in for something special when the credits began with closeup shots of a razor shaving against glistening abs to a propulsive soundtrack. Blending coming-of-age drama with the energy of competitive sport, The Swimmer might not be wall-to-wall explicit sex scenes, but it didn’t need to be, either. These slice-of-life type stories need to be told as well, and I would place it among the better ones I have seen recently.

Erez (Omer Perelman Striks) arrives at a boarding school training camp committed to snagging the swimming win at a major competition. The winner gets an exclusive ticket into the Olympics! Getting across the finish line may prove quite the challenge, especially with the grueling tactics of Coach Dema (Igal Reznik) coming into play. Though Erez is warned never to be late, not to divulge in alcohol, and that “you’re only here to swim,” his burgeoning sexuality threatens to peak him out of the metaphorical closet and into the ferocious flames beneath his competitors’ frying pans. A quiet flirtation begins between Erez and the gorgeous, supremely talented Nevo (Asaf Jones) that creates the ultimate competitive snag: a distraction. It’s not quite clear if Dema is homophobic or not, or if he’s just starkly opposed to friendship in general; either way, Dema appears to make it his mission to separate Erez and Nevo and their mutual fondness toward one another.

Writer/director Adam Kalderson perfectly captures the adolescent yearning, passion for what one cannot hope to possess, and pent-up sexual tension. The viewer roots for Erez and Nevo to eventually get together despite all signs pointing to the fact that they are not truly compatible. Nevo seems very straight, but then again Erez has a girlfriend yet steals Nevo’s pants to pleasure himself with them. The fact that The Swimmer culminates in one of the most amazing finales I have seen from this type of film (a sequence in which a coordinated ultra-queer dance to symbolize the big finale competition race) makes it incredible easy to recommend. 

I had a silly issue with the subtitles in my screener—namely, they were frequently hard to read due to the frequency of blues and lighter colors, with the captions themselves being white. This is rather a shame, as I had to rewind more than once to catch something that was being said. Of course, this is far from being a dealbreaker, but it did occasionally bring me right out of the movie. That said, that ranks among the few issues I actually had with The Swimmer. Some may scoff at the minimal amount of sex sequences, but there is male eye candy aplenty (including full-frontal nudity). Erez’s story is a sporting competition mindfuck that recalls last year’s breakout The Novice, and the script is sharp enough to bring the greater themes full circle by the time it concludes. Recommended for those in particular that are searching for something outside the norm when it comes to LGBTQ+ content.

The Swimmer screened at 2022’s OUTshine LGBTQ+ Film Festival.

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