The Netflix drama seemed to be based on real life, so I was excited to check it out. The Swimmers is based on a true story. There are a lot of dramas in The Swimmers, but is it worth it in the end when two young sisters embark on a harrowing journey as refugees, putting both their hearts and their swimming skills to heroic use on their journey from war-torn Syria to the 2016 Rio Olympics?
This story follows two sisters who are champion swimmers as they try to flee from Syria amidst war in hopes of travelling to Germany where they hope to apply for a family transfer.
This would allow their parents and younger siblings to seek refuge there as well. The two sisters are teenagers with one being 16 or 17 and they grew up swimming and being trained by their dad.
However, as the war encroaches and life becomes very dangerous the girls convinced their parents to send them away.
This is a very detailed story that puts a lot of focus on the journey of Sarah and Yusra the two sisters who are accompanied by their cousin. We watch the three travellers travel this long and arduous path in hopes of making it to Europe but since the film focuses so much on showing us the travels, the story takes quite a while to unfold.
There was a part in the middle that I forgot that this had to do with the girls’ struggles with swimming as refugees. Each scenario was scary. We saw not only the trio but a ton of other refugees fleeing for safety. They just put their trust in people who say they can help now for a price.
There’s no way to tell if they’ll be swindled left in the middle of nowhere or even killed. Because of their Refugee status, they don’t even have recourse with authorities since they’re not supposed to be in some of the countries that they’re travelling through. This creates some very tense situations and there’s one in particular that involves a group attempting to cross the sea from Turkey to Greece and it is a nail-biting situation.
Sometimes the camera was too close to the subject so some of the visuals were cramped and it was difficult to discern what was going on. However, it also helped to put us into the mindset of the people on this boat.
They’re crammed in and with way more passengers that are safe now. During this scene, some dream-like sequences help to give us the perspective of Yusra. We see her fears and dreams and how all of this affects her psyche. It is also a long scene, so we don’t get a quick resolution. Instead, it makes us sit with the discomfort of impending doom for quite a bit. Again, this isn’t the only harrowing experience that we watch refugees endure.
Many times I feel like it would just be easier to give up or turn back. But there are nomads at this point, so the only way forward is through it, which is inspiring and heartbreaking all at the same time.
In the Final Act of the movie, we watch Yusra begin to train again for swimming. Now she has the desire to swim for Syria in the Rio Olympics but Syria wasn’t a country at that point that was sending athletes. So, the user finds herself in an odd situation.
This is when Matthias Schweizerhoffer enters the film. You’d recognize him from the army of the dead and then that prequel Army of Thieves. Initially, I thought he would be a more prominent character, but he’s just in a small park. However, I do like him in it.
He comes across as kind and becomes a cheerleader for Yusra and her swimming. The actors that play Sarah and Yusra are sisters in real life so that dynamic it’s fun to watch on screen. Monalisa and Natalie Isa play Sarah and Yusra respectively and they’ve got some terrific screen presence and they convincingly showcase dread fear and determination.
Now I love watching them interact because their responses feel very natural so when they quip at each other or show love it feels genuine. I’m sure that’s a direct result of knowing each other the way that only real sisters could now from a visual perspective. The Swimmers is beautiful to watch. Especially when the surroundings are framed from the top down, some of the shots have a certain artsy feel to them.
This is a great way to illustrate a surrounding winner if there are walls or other obstacles that would prevent us from seeing it if the angle was changed. Some excellent environmental shots showcase just how treacherous the landscapes are that the refugees have to traverse through. When they arrive in Greece, the land is covered with life jackets.
As the camera rises to then pan down on the surroundings, we see how dwarfed the people are by the mountains of life preservers. As well as highlighting how many sought refuge and safety, it is also a sobering image.
The Swimmers movie clocks in at 2 hours and 14 minutes so it’s not a quick watch. The journey is so detailed, even the monotony of waiting for the next leg of the journey is shown. In my opinion, the apparent time takes away from the overall enjoyment of the story. It’s still a phenomenal account, and I’m glad it’s being told.
Despite this, it will take patience to watch now, even though there are very inspiring portions of this movie. I found myself anxiously engaged.
Throughout the whole event, I watched it with excitement and anticipation. I was invested in the characters especially Yusra because she became the main focus of the story.
As the film closes out we are given title cards on the screen that fill in details of what happens after this story concludes. We hear what Yusra accomplished in the coming years and what Sarah is doing now.
It’s a nice way to wrap up the story and provide resolution so despite feeling like this story takes a long time to tell the stories of the sisters and the refugees as a whole is still a fascinating and emotional journey that also can inspire.
The visuals are striking and sometimes gritty balancing innocence and atrocity. They show us the realities the refugees faced.
While swimming may not always be the central focus of the plot, the drive, determination and resolve of the characters showcase how Champions can be found everywhere. There’s no s*x or nakedness, just a lot of profanity and some brutal violence including sexual assault. I give The Swimmers four out of five.