Swimming Upstream


Swimming Upstream

Critics Consensus

Led by strong work from Judy Davis and Geoffrey Rush, Swimming Upstream tells its familiar story with just enough conviction to earn the audience's attention.



Total Count: 38


Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,639
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Movie Info

Based on the true story of a youth from Brisbane, Australia, who overcame family dysfunction to become a world-class athlete, director Russell Mulcahy's drama centers on young Tony Fingleton's (Jesse Spencer) relationship with his distant father, Harold (Geoffrey Rush), and the dedication it took to win his respect. Born into a large family and convinced by his father that he will never amount to the achievements of his brothers, Tony attempts to win his father's respect by becoming a champion swimmer. Despite his best efforts to please his father, Tony also begins to realize his own self-worth in the process.


Geoffrey Rush
as Harold Fingleton
Judy Davis
as Dora Fingleton
Jesse Spencer
as Tony Fingleton
Tim Draxl
as John Fingleton
David Hoflin
as Harold Fingleton Jr
Craig Horner
as Ronald Fingleton
Brittany Byrnes
as Diane Fingleton
Thomas Davidson
as Young John
Kain O'Keefe
as Young Harold Jr.
Robert Quinn
as Young Ronald
Keeara Byrnes
as Young Diane
Melissa Thomas
as Dawn Fraser
Dawn Fraser
as Dawn Fraser's coach
Remi Broadway
as Murray Rose
Murray Rose
as Reporter
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Critic Reviews for Swimming Upstream

All Critics (38) | Top Critics (11) | Fresh (23) | Rotten (15)

  • The story isn't unusual or compelling enough to make a lasting impression.

    Feb 10, 2005

    Rex Reed

    Top Critic
  • Good as Rush and Davis are as combative working-class parents Harold and Dora, their story line overpowers the drippy dramatics of their teen athlete son. It unwittingly feels like two separate movies.

    Feb 5, 2005
  • Makes you sit up and take notice, if only for the fine performances of the terrific Judy Davis as his abused mother and Geoffrey Rush as his bitter, angry dad.

    Feb 4, 2005 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • The grim material isn't helped by the hackneyed direction of Russell Mulcahy, a music-video veteran.

    Feb 4, 2005 | Rating: 2/4
  • Ends up merely treading water.

    Feb 4, 2005 | Rating: 2/4
  • Their vivid, uncompromising performances redeem what could have been a clichéd coming-of-age story.

    Feb 4, 2005 | Rating: B

Audience Reviews for Swimming Upstream

  • Feb 03, 2011
    Swimming Upstream. Beautifully acted, but filmed with restraint. When I say filmed with restraint, I'm referring to Swimming Upstream's underselling of itself. At times this is its weakness, while other times it's a strength. In the extremely dramatic scenes involving the family's troubles, the emotion is very raw and honest without being flashy and soap-opera-ish. While it was fun to see Jesse Spencer out of his role on House (for real, great performance), the obvious shining light was Geoffrey Rush (who won an Oscar for Shine, see what I did there?). I'm surprised he wasn't nominated for this, because he steals the show in every single scene. Even when you're supposed to be thinking about Spencer's emotional battle, you're putting every ounce of effort into reading Rush's subtle blank stare. They even threw in a couple of random impressively artsy cinametographical (not a word) tricks, like filming the kitchen fight from underneath through a glass floor... looked awesome. The split screen swim meets worked well also, a bit strange at times, but a good fit. Why 80%? Because the juxtaposition of the swimming storyline with the family turmoil was great, as well as the performances. A well-crafted movie for an inspiring story. Extra: An ode to Geoffrey Rush... Your disgusting jaw compelling so, The way you ramble to and fro. The nasty wrinkles of your cheek, I only imagine how you reek. Unkempt hair, skin not so fair, Your gangly arms are hard to bare. Yet still I watch on the edge of my seat, Cuz your performances can't be beat.
    Luke T Super Reviewer
  • Aug 07, 2010
    (2004 Director: Russell Mulcahy) Based on a sad true story de Anthony Fingleton. Hard-working father ( ) taunts his 3 sons due to his own misguided idea that only physical strength matters. [more review to follow] (2004 Directeur : Russell Mulcahy) fondé sur une vraie histoire triste de l'Anthony Fingleton.. Le père qui dur-travaillant () accable de sarcasmes ses 3 fils en raison de sa propre idée dévoyée que la force seulement physique a d'importance. [plus de revue pour suivre]
    Teresa S Super Reviewer
  • May 03, 2008
    Beautiful.. Amazing storyline and powerful performances by the whole cast not forgetting to mention the great direction.. Heart wrenching yet inspiring story of a young man struggling to gain his cruel father's approval or at least attention.. Based on true events of the life of Australian swimmer <b><i>Tony Fingleton</i></b>, this is a rather good watch. It's a shame it got discarded the way it did, barely having a theatrical run in most countries..
    Dina B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 11, 2008
    he story of a young man's struggle to gain his fathers love and approval. As the most sensitive and brightest boy of a very large family, Tony tries to please his macho father who appears to be unimpressed by his academic prowess and only accepts sporting triumph as sucess. Based-on-a-real-life film with stunning pool filming and good looking actors. Swimmers will understand the pull that the pool has on Tony as he copes with his difficult life. An inspiration to get back into serious swimming.
    Alexander W Super Reviewer

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