Swimming Upstream is based on Tony and Diane Fingleton’s novel of the same name. Diane Fingleton, a chief magistrate in Queensland, has also been in the news lately but for less than salubrious reasons. Director Mulcahy is an Australian best known for directing the action films in the Highlander series, although he has won a Golden Globe and directed the pilot episodes for Queer As Folk as well as having a long involvement with MTV and music videos.
Tony Fingleton, former swimming champion, lawyer and self-styled screenwriter, has lived in the US for a long time so it is natural he would want to tell the story of a boy (himself) who used his inner strength to overcome an abusive father and a working-class background to become a champion.
Swimming Upstream features some good performances from Judy Davis, as the long-suffering mother, and the large cast of young Australian television actors, including Jesse Spencer from Neighbours. Singer Tim Draxl also makes his screen debut. Less convincing is Geoffrey Rush who plays the wharfie, working-class father in a very one dimensional performance. It is also good to see veteran actress Deborah Kennedy on screen playing Billie, the friend of Dora Fingleton.
Australian Martin McGrath’s (Muriel’s Wedding) cinematography is good but the continual use of split screens is annoying and they are overused. Overall, Swimming Upstream is competently made and will make wry viewing for those familiar with the period.