Billed as a “spellbinding murder mystery”, I found myself asking what the mystery of SWIMMING POOL really was. Because the film I saw was about a stuffy, older, British woman temporarily sharing a house with a wild, young, French girl. It made for a fine story, but everyone involved tried to make this film something it wasn’t. This isn’t a mystery or an intense drama, this is just two women dealing with their generational gap. Or at least it should have been.
When successful mystery writer Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling) reaches a bout of writer’s block, her publisher (Charles Dance) suggests she spend some time in his house in France. She gladly accepts and finds that the peace and solitude of the house is very refreshing. But her world gets shaken up when the free-spirited Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) shows up. Obviously, they don’t get along, but Sarah is captivated with her young guest and after a horrifying event, they form a bond of friendship and respect.
There is more to it, but I don’t want to give anything away for fear that you might actually find something in the film to be surprising. Needless to say, I found the entire film to be very pedestrian and it felt like I was watching a different story than what the filmmakers thought they were filming. If they had stuck to the story between Sarah and Julie, I think it would’ve been a better film; a sort of “Odd Couple” type story and maybe a little more lighthearted than what we ended up with. As it was, everything felt anti-climatic and too much pressure was put on the ending. By the time it came around, I was pretty bored and gave a slight shrug of the shoulders.
There was a lot of nudity used in the film that proved to be a little distracting at times. Nudity, like foul language, can be a very powerful tool when used properly in a movie. But like cussing, nudity is too often misused in film and it quickly becomes a gimmick that does nothing but distract the viewers from what’s happening with the story. In the case of SWIMMING POOL, nudity is used often, but it’s only used properly half of the time. Julie is a wild child and there are moments where her being naked makes sense (during the sex scene, when Sarah walks in on her in bed) and then there are times where it’s a gimmick (laying by the pool, a gratuitous bathtub scene). As a red blooded man, I enjoy the naked female body as much as anyone, but when it comes to nudity in movies, sometimes less is more.
I think the filmmakers had a decent idea for a film, but they didn’t execute it as fully as they could have. With what they were doing, we needed something really horrible to happen and we needed to see it transpire. Yes, what ended up happening was bad, but the audience saw it coming and it didn’t have the impact it should have. It was an ok effort, but in the end, SWIMMING POOL turns out to be a little dry for my taste.