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Swimming Pool Review

By Shawn McKenzie 07/11/2003

With an intriguing poster (a hot girl in a bikini lying beside a swimming pool) and plenty of buzz about this film from the Cannes Film Festival, I was interested in seeing Swimming Pool.  Though it took me a while to understand the ending, once I did, I realized what a cool film this was.


British mystery author Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling) was working on her latest novel when she became burnt out.  She was sick of London and wanted a new setting to gain some fresh inspiration.  Her publisher, John Bosload (Charles Dance), offers her his place in Luberon, in the South of France, to vacation and possibly get the inspiration she was seeking.  Since it was the off-season, the tourism would be small, and she would find some peace and quiet to write the novel.  She accepts his offer and heads to France for the house.  She meets the groundskeeper, Marcel (Marc Fayolle), at the train station, who takes her to the house.  With a balcony overlooking a swimming pool and a beautiful countryside, she realizes she had made the right decision to come to France.  She even found the local café, run by the bartender Franck (Jean-Marie Lamour), very peaceful and quaint.  All is going well, until late one night, when John’s French daughter Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) suddenly shows up.  Julie was brash and sexually adventurous, which was the complete opposite of Sarah.  For some reason, Sarah found it difficult to contact John to complain about Julie, so she learns to cope with the girl.  Eventually she becomes intrigued by Julie’s lifestyle, and it begins to affect her writing.  After bringing home a string of lovers, one night Julie brings home Franck, a man that Sarah had a little crush on from the café.  After dancing around to some techno music in the living room, Julie and Franck go out to the swimming pool to fool around.  The next morning Franck has disappeared and Julie is acting weird.  After some investigation, Sarah begins to wonder what events over the last few weeks were real and what were imagined.


The first thing you might notice about this film, at least if you are a guy, is Sagnier.  She is incredibly hot, and her character is very liberal with her clothes.  Julie frequently walks around topless, even in front of Sarah, without a single care about modesty.  I just thought I’d mention that, since it was the first thing I noticed.


The second thing you might notice about this film, if you are a film fan, is how cool the story is.  Unfortunately, you may not make that conclusion until the very end, when you get a chance to think about it.  Even after it ended, I had to have a fellow critic explain to me what had happened (I don’t want to spoil it here, but feel free to email me if you don’t understand the ending once you see it and I will write you back.)  Once I understood it, I realized what a remarkable story I had just seen.  I had unfortunately missed a chance to see 8 Femmes, the film François Ozon, the director of this film, had helmed before this one, and now I wish I had seen it.  Rampling, an actress praised by other critics but virtually unknown by me (looking at her filmography, I’d say it is because she has mostly done snooty British films that didn’t appeal to me) is great in this film, and defies ageism by being sexy in it as well.

If you are not afraid of a half English/half French film, go check out Swimming Pool.  For guys, they can drool over Sagnier, but for everyone else, they will enjoy a cool mystery with a great, if slightly confusing, ending.  This is one pool that movie geeks can dip their toes into.

Ratings System:


Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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